graphic for The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech: The Emergence of Intelligent Software


Paul Hebert is a founding member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. As the Managing Director and lead consultant for I2I, an influence consultancy, he guides companies in their alignment of the behavior of their employees with the goals and objectives of the company through incentives and rewards. Full bio

Paul Hebert | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Paul Hebert | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

In order for HR to be effective in the future their current responsibilities need to be pushed out of HR and moved to the fringes of the organizations.  What we currently call HR needs to be a distributed function – not centralized.  Most (if not all) of the items on a typical HR practitioner’s to-do list can, and should be handled by the managers who are furthest from the hub of the organization and closest to the action.

That may sound anathema for most HR people but the reality is that HR acting as a central hub in an organization, kills the organization’s ability to be successful.

People Time and Money

The holy trinity of business – people, time and money.

Every business needs all three in various amounts.  Those three elements determine how successful you will be.

Have great people – you can get by with less money and time.  Have a ton of money – you need less people and less time.

But – if you have less time – you now need more people and more money.

Time reverses the equation.

Business Is Accelerating

We are all subject to time and unless we’re traveling near the speed of light we all experience it the same way.  We all feel the pressure of faster, faster.  Our bosses want more in less time.  Our customers want more in less time.  We, individually, want more in less time.

But we can’t change time.

Time is the one resource you can’t save.  You can’t hold it.  You can’t store it away for future use.  Time is the ultimate perishable resource.  Time equalizes everyone. Time is the only real constraint on business today.

And managing time as a resource requires different thinking.

Business Is War

Ask any military student and they will tell you that the best plans are those that have a broad, undeniable, clearly-stated mission that is passed down the chain of command until it gets to those that actually have dust on their boots.  The military allows for decisions to be made in the moment at the point of attack based on a solid understanding of the strategy and goals of the engagement.  Where military problems occur is when those at the point of engagement have to wait for input from the “higher ups.”  That stalls the plan and creates failure.  We’ve seen examples in recent history as diplomats tried to “manage” a war.

Successful businesses today use people as their weapons of attack.  And their front lines are the factory workers, the programmers, the sales and marketing people who are working at the point of engagement.  HR needs to enable those employees to make the appropriate decisions regarding people and resources.

In the future, HR will not be effective if most decisions about people need to be passed back up the chain of command before implementation.  That wastes time.  And time is the enemy.  Or more accurately – taking too much time is the enemy.

Great HR Is About Bending Time

HR needs to first and foremost understand that time is a constraint and that “bending time” – reducing the lag between strategy and tactics is the way to enable success.  A great HR person will find ways to make time work to their advantage.  Think of it this way – if you are using the same processes and procedures as your competitors you both are constrained equally by time.  But, if you can speed up your process – in other words – bend time – you now are more agile, more effective, faster and better than your competitors.  You have taken a constraint and made it an enabler.

In order to bend time HR needs to relinquish tactical control and push their current list of activities out to the edges.  Just as the military pushes decision making out to the troops in the moment, HR needs to push the day-to-day tactics out to the managers and employees closest to the day-to-day decision points.

Train Those At the Point of Engagement to Do 80% of your current job

HR needs to train those at the point of engagement about HR – the rules, the laws, the issues, the risks.  HR’s job should be to equip those at the front lines of business to make good decisions in the heat of battle.  HR needs to push their traditional work out to the edges where time can be leveraged not wasted.

Many of you will say – “If I push my work out to managers what do I do?”

That’s the beauty of moving more decision-making out to the edges – you now have more time to focus on the strategy and the planning of “human” resources.  You are no longer burdened with making decisions for, and getting involved with, managers 2,000 miles away and four levels down in the organization.  If you’ve done your job right – they are trained well to do the day-to-day HR work.

You are now freed up to work with your peers (CFOs, CMOs, COOs) to plan human resources that drive business results.

By moving more work to the edges and bending time, gives you more time for your company.

Time is a funny concept.  When you bend time by allocating roles and responsibilities everything speeds up – but paradoxically – as you enable faster business processes you ultimately get more time for what is important in Human Resources.

graphic for The 2018 Index of Predictive Tools in HRTech: The Emergence of Intelligent Software

  • I really like the comparison to the military strategy. Wasting time waiting on higher up input is literally a matter of life or death for them…as it probably is for a business. It is HR’s job to help empower employees to make the right decisions. However, I also think it’s an employee’s job to take the initiative to take action – especially if the higher ups are being too slow. There’s a risk there but there’s also a risk when it comes to waiting.

  • It’s funny that a lot of folks would think the military is a slow moving, rank-focused sloth – and it can be in many areas. However, when it comes to waging war – where lives are at stake they take a pretty smart approach (IMHO.)

    I also agree that employees should take initiative – but many of the things on HR’s list cannot be implemented by rank and file regardless of initiative. Some things HR has to let go of.

  • Pingback: 12/2/10: Top Talent Development Posts this Week()

  • Pingback: Themes You May Have Missed « HR Reinvention Experiment()

  • Dan Pottiger

    This is patent nonsense, with regard to decentralizing H.R. Indeed, if “business is war”, then businesses need to be strong on ALL FRONTS. These “fronts” include boundaries between Employer-Employees, Employer- myriad Employment Laws, Employer-Labor Unions. Employer success on each of these “fronts” requires H.R. expertise and oversight that cannot exist in a distributed environment–not even in a relative small organization such as our’s (80 employees, involved in provision of community mental health services).

    Application of your “war” analogy does not mean that Employer’s are “at war” with their Employees. Indeed, a major function of H.R. is to apply its specialized expertise to prevent the outbreak of such a war. Line supervisors and most senior managers lack this expertise and are unlikely to develop it, as they are preoccupied with their slice of the overall corporate mission. And, unless the organization has totally outsourced Benefits Administration, I’d hate to entrust this to a harried line supervisor.

    Gotta run. I’ve never before commented on an article; but this one is so unrealistic that I just had to take the time.

    Dan Pottiger

  • Paul — Always good to stir the pot on this subject, so thank you. We should definitely push more accountability for execution of HR processes to the business. We need to be careful not to forget however that HR is a speciality like any other. I might want managers doing their own expense reports, but I don’t want them designing internal audit processes. Likewise, I want managers to manage, grow their teams, provide feedback, etc., but not to design engagement surveys or do workforce analytics.

    The key to making this balance work is that HR must start designing processes that can actually be executed, and we must then hold managers accountable for actually executing them! Sounds easy, but the research says that neither is happening with any great frequency.


  • Allan M

    Thanks for the thought provoking article. After 20+ years in the HR business I’m convinced that HR is a function that hasn’t fully evolved. It remains bogged down in administration and logistics and while there are many progressive HR leaders (and good examples of this), most are not adding strategic value, don’t have the right skill set to do so and/or spend time fighting to get at the “C” level to contribute significantly to a strategic agenda. As noted below in others comments a big chuck of HR activity needs to be automated or handled in a centralized shared services center. There is no economy of scale or value to decentralize these activities to managers and employees (benefits, mechanics of people movement on assignments, local legal requirements, sourcing and recruiting, etc…). To your point, however, give a manager a budget, headcount and objectives and say run the business in “this context.” That’s empowerment. That’s how you leverage talent and secure long-term buy-in. Many companies today require 6 levels of approval to hire an employee…three are HR. No value add for this activity. It just disenfranchises managers. Again, good discussion and great metaphors. Thanks. I’ll try to apply some of the concepts more that I currently do. Allan.

  • Pingback: HRExaminer v1.43 | HR Examiner with John Sumser()

  • Pingback: You Can Move Faster at the Edges « TempI2I()

  • Pingback: Themes You May Have Missed | HR Reinvention()

  • Pingback: Symbolist()

Page 1 of 11
Read previous post:
The HRExaminer v1.42

This week's HRExaminer Magazine features the Top 25 HR Digital Influencers plus insights on SaaS, HR Engagement, Social Media, a...