A New View of HR’s Role

After a brief search of HR related-job postings recently, I was pleased to see that more and more of them are titled HR Business Partner. Yes, that is correct, Human Resources is a business profession. Really!


HR—What it’s Not

What is it not? It’s not a purely tactical administrative role functioning as your police officer or cheerleader. What does this mean? Well, it’s not HR’s job to stand by the time clock and discipline people who show up late. It’s not HR’s role to figure out whether to hand out coffee cups or baseball caps to buck up a company’s crumbling culture. It’s not really HR’s job to fire people.


HR—What it Is

It is HR’s job to establish measurement tools so the exec team can review people metrics. It is HR’s job to train managers on goal setting, team building and employee accountability, providing direction and coaching on how to achieve goals while also reducing any legal risks.


Basically, your HR team of professionals is your strategic partner in figuring out how you want your company to work—from a human perspective—and help you get it there in a way that is both productive and safe while supporting your strategic plans, mission, vision and goals.


It’s HR’s role to take your organization’s pulse and tell the executive team what we found. Our job is to look at your culture, your processes—really everything about how people treat each other in the workplace—and spot what’s working, what’s causing problems, and what can be changed or strengthened to get the results you want. But when someone calls us in just to handle a problem without trying to figure out what created this problem, that’s what I call “Management by Duct Tape”.


Dealing with the problem holistically might include leadership training. It might include assessing the culture and identifying that maybe an organization is rewarding people the wrong way for the results it wants. It might include calling out an ethics problem among employees. Once we help find a solution, it’s really management’s job to implement it.


Another job that belongs to managers (but organizations are happy to farm out to us) is firing people. The manager, we are told, isn’t comfortable disciplining or firing people. Now, firing people is never fun. But it isn’t something a manager should dread, either. Think about it: a manager who can’t discipline or fire people is helpless, and her employees know it. We don’t want to come in and steal that responsibility and skill—yes, it’s a skill. What we do want to do is work with the manager to understand what makes her uncomfortable and coach her through the process. We can even sit in the first couple of times, assisting and giving feedback. As a result, she’s developed a skill that makes her a more effective and confident manager and she’s empowered to do her job and not—as some managers do—overlook problems because she doesn’t want to face firing someone.


It’s Like Learning to Ride a Bike

It reminds me of when I learned to ride my bike. I had my training wheels. My dad had his hand on the bike seat. But even though I was terrified of falling, of a face plant, he made me do the work. He was right there, yelling, “Pedal! Faster! You can do it!” but I eventually had to let him release the seat, take off the training wheels and ride my bike on my own. Today I ride my bike with great confidence and rarely fear a face plant.


As HR, we’re there to make sure you don’t face plant and to teach you whatever skills you need to manage your team in the best way for your company as you head down the road.


If you want help figuring out how to do that…that’s what we can do.

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