HR Needs to Follow the Right Rabbit

This may not be a revelation to anyone but me but the function of human resources in our companies has changed more than any other department. Marketing is still marketing. The goals, objectives and need for the marketing department is still pretty much the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Create awareness, pull people closer to the company and help convert that awareness and connection into money.

Sales is still sales. How we do it is different. It’s less smile and dial, it’s less glad handing and golf, less Features, Advantages, Benefits and more knowledge and problem solving. Sales is still sales because we still need people to talk with potential clients and customers.

Sales, marketing, customer service, accounting – all pretty much have the same mission they have had for decades. The “how” of achieving the mission in those departments is very different for sure. And I’d submit, will be different again in another 10 years. But the goals will be still be similar. The tactics will be different.

Human Resources isn’t like that.

In HR the mission actually is different.

The mission has changed but from an outsider looking in the evidence – the output from the HR department – suggests while the mission changed it isn’t being acted upon. The activity looks and feels just as it did 20 years ago. It’s as if marketing said we are now responsible for product support and then continued to make advertisements and brochures except now they are about product support. The mission changed – but the output remained the same.

Photo of author Paul Hebert, founding member HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

“And as a department, as a profession and as individuals – HR is trying to chase both rabbits.” -Paul Hebert, founding member HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

The mission for HR moved from one of supporting other departments such as legal by monitoring/managing all new laws associated with having employees. I never did understand why HR handles employee legal issues? Operations doesn’t own the legal issues associated patents or legal problems associated with the products they make. HR’s mission shouldn’t be about supporting individual managers by helping design job descriptions and performance appraisal processes. Really – shouldn’t those reside in the manager’s lap – closer to where the performance actually occurs? And why are company events not a revolving responsibly? Again, I know this is old news. Everyone has been talking about this stuff for years.

It is the “reason” HR can’t be strategic. It’s the reason the conversation always devolves to a discussion of “furniture” as China Gorman always says.

The fact is – like it or not. HR still does this stuff. And they are doing it while they try to worry about strategic human capability issues.

The HR mission changed. But the output hasn’t.

2 Rabbits

“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither” (Confucius)

This is the problem.

HR is tasked with a new mission. A mission requiring new skills and new thinking. Yet it is still tasked with the old mission.

And as a department, as a profession and as individuals – HR is trying to chase both rabbits.

Strategic and tactical.

Old needs and new needs.

Narrow and broad.

And, if the bloggers and other pundits are to be believed – not catching either.

Focus on Releasing Responsibility Before Accepting Your New Mission

You can’t cross the river without taking your foot off of the shore. You cannot move on without letting go of the things that are keeping you stable, happy, comfortable. You must let go of the old mission. You must ignore the other rabbit and choose to focus on the new one. It is tough. It sits there, staring at you. Daring you to engage. But you can’t.

Chasing both rabbits is a losing proposition.

HR needs to work to find places in the organization where they can place their old mission in order to take on the new mission of creating a company where human beings can contribute to the company and themselves to grow and prosper.

That is the rabbit HR must chase.

Let someone else worry about the other rabbit.

I know – Captain Obvious.

But sometimes it is the obvious we can’t see.

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