HR groups around the world provide a valuable function. In the US in particular, HR groups are responsible for managing benefits, payroll, and other essential support functions.
But it is important to keep it in perspective. HR is a support function. If the company leadership decides to change benefits, HR will run the analysis, present the options, and execute the follow through after a decision is made by the execs. Too often, HR is gunning for more responsibility than what is good for them.
You can’t abdicate your leadership to HR (aka Human Resources). You can’t have them hiring your staff (though they can help in a purely supporting role). You can’t have them rolling out your social media strategy. You can’t have them rolling out your social collaboration capabilities. And you can’t have HR foisting voodoo and snake oil on your leadership team (see: Myers Briggs tests, and other personality and horoscope-like tests). So, I’m not sure why anyone who has experienced HR being done upon them would want HR to be in charge of social or collaboration software in a business. Any more than you would want them running your email roll-out…
As I wrote in a comment on MWD’s blog:
The functions (developing talent) that HR does in theory, are actually functions that need to be owned and performed “by the business” – meaning, the operational parts of the business – from the CEO on down to the line manager and the senior members of any team. If HR focuses on administrative work that makes everyone’s life easier, that would be likely better – on boarding, off boarding, and benefits administration and payroll.
At one company I worked for, we had people come to talk to us about various subjects:
- Solution Selling
- How Microsoft’s engineering team was organized and run.
- What leadership means at our company
- How to develop better management and leadership skills
Were these talks given by HR? No. They were given by: An extremely experienced salesperson, Mike Maples Sr., our CEO, and Noel Tichy – who literally wrote the book on this subject. At another company, HR organized a leadership meeting that consisted of figuring out if you were a “Red” or a “Blue” and how that might help you figure out how to relate to each other. Voodoo.
In the first case, leadership and teaching was integral to the leadership team and execs. In the other case it was something to be offloaded to an HR exec.
In my view, HR should be in a position to advocate for employees to the management team. And Finance to advocate for sound financial planning and assumptions. And Sales to advocate for good sales approach, etc. What does that mean for HR? Negotiating good benefits packages, and then working with management to make them affordable. Advocating for bonuses or raises based on the data available to them. Making sure that anyone that touches the HR department (employee, part time, or prospective employee) will be treated well and with respect.
That’s a mission HR can carry out without conflicts of interest. Just as execs can’t delegate all of the fun stuff, they can’t delegate all of the difficult stuff. Delegating those hard tasks to HR isn’t really doing your company any favors. Put the right people in charge.