Key Focus Areas for HR Function
Recent discussions in various HR forums amused me as expected. A new debate seems to be gaining popularity that CPOs are the best choice for the top job. Twenty years practice of listening to such amusing discussions and watching the ground reality has made me prudent enough to neither react nor participate. While there may be no harm in intellectual stimulation, in dreaming big, distinguishing it from fantasy is an ordeal. Our `upwardly mobile’ HR fraternity could be mindful of the following in order to ensure grounding.
Workplaces are making people robotic. People’s lives have become mechanical. Organizations have ended up becoming entities that deliver numbers. So high is the focus on numbers that in a strange way the very person who delivers these numbers is marginalised. Balancing task and people systems is a major challenge for HR. While organizations need to continue to focus on numbers, how they could become genuinely humane is a challenge. This requires HR to diagnose the challenge, understand business, deploy right people strategy, institutionalize right culture and deploy transformational leadership style.
HR could create a great deal of transparency in its processes that are evaluative in nature such as appraisal, hiring, assessment centers etc. These processes cause many problems that could be resolved through transparency. For instance, only sharing changed rating is not enough but if we share why and how ratings change in the bell curve, people find their own ways to deal with feeling short-changed. It needs to make line folks accept subjectivity. Efforts towards making things objective have made things highly complex.
There is no account of time that gets wasted in churning numbers that don’t make sense, in meetings that have no meaning. We were unable to reach a very senior HR person for nearly three weeks because she was constantly in meetings to discuss how one employee got his girlfriend into office at night, had Biryani at desk and how that created rodent problem. They were apparently discussing security breach, admin policy breach, code of conduct and so on. Focusing on right things and not getting distracted is of great importance and with high dreams as mentioned above, HR needs to focus on right things.
While keeping the focus on tangibles, also focus on intangibles. For instance, in one organization, where we were grappling with two way feedback, we instituted a reverse feedback process through software only to realize that people developed dependence on software to talk to each other. HR would do wonders by realizing that often times systems/ processes only change the location of a problem, they don’t solve it. Processes are tangibles, heart to heart dialogue is intangible, incentive is tangible but inspiration is intangible and HR should focus on such intangibles. Understanding the potential of intangibles will help HR focus on right things.
Need to be liked by all has often antagonized people. No one can make everyone happy. HR folks would do themselves a great favour in understanding this. Knowing what one stands for would help, knowing our loyalties would help. HR is B to B and B to C at the same time, hence a difficult balance to achieve catering to diverse interests.
`I’ll get back to you’ is the `four letter word’. Nothing else has earned HR more disrepute than these words. Learn to say No. Lot of HR processes are evaluative in nature. As a result they would say more NOs than YES’s. This therefore is the most critical skill, more critical than HR functional knowledge.
Quite often `upwardly mobile’ people lose touch with ground upon lift off and they realize mid way that their destination is ever so elusive, leaving them fatigued, clueless, hanging like `Trishanku’. Before realizing the promise of the corner office I would love for this fraternity to secure their own offices well.
- Rahoul Joshii