A thought recently crossed my mind. I used to be HR Director, and now I advise HR Directors. There's a lot of difference between those two roles, although you could say it's twice an activity in HR. In the past, organizations looked at advisors and interim managers with caution or even distrust.
But today, HR has become a quilt of skills and experiences. HR has always been diverse, with people coming from different backgrounds, bringing different experiences. But not so long ago, HR was also a career cemetery or a Hotel California, a place in the organization you could never leave. Many are articles about HR being incompetent, superfluous, or obsolete. The lamentations about HR were and sometimes still are deafening. There are many articles about what HR should or should not do. People from other disciplines have showcased their successes to inspire their HR peers.
I cannot deny that not all practices within HR are healthy. And I cannot say that every person in HR is the most competent person one could think of. Not every organization has invested in digitalizing its HR framework. And so, I do not want to defend the profession. HR is not a victim and does not need a rescue. But here's the deal
1. HR is not a function, it's a process designed and supported by HR experts, but that is executed by all organization members, starting with its leaders.
2. Every organization has the HR process it deserves. If there are no investments in the people, the processes, the technology, and the culture, there will be a weak HR.
3. HR is strategic because people design and execute strategies. Strategies do not fail; people do. So, organizations had better integrated what we know about human behavior into their strategic thinking.
4. Digitalization or people analytics will not save HR if these tools do not reinforce or improve the HR processes in their essence. Having a self-service portal is in itself not the essence of HR. But having data about capabilities, culture and behavior is. As long as we scratch the surface with superficial insights, commonplace thinking, and cheap and easy approaches, chances are is that the HR process is a cosmetic must-have and accessorized business.
During the Corona-crisis, many HR professionals had to jump on the crisis wagon. There was no choice. Many things had to be arranged to enable people to work from home. But the challenge here is not to define a telework policy. The challenge is to design an organization that is resilient, flexible, and supports all stakeholders' needs.
And so, if HR wants to be future-oriented, it has to be more than a supportive function that is hardly tolerated at the strategic table. HR in the future is a strategic capability that enables people to perform and create value for all stakeholders sustainably. And for that, the HR experts must be open, business savvy, creative design thinkers who combine their expertise with know-how from different fields and focus on the purpose of the organization.
I love HR because it is omnipresent and has to integrate so many sources of input to design a context that supports and steers human behavior.
It's a profession that links into and overlaps with leadership and strategy.
Organizations who get HR right in good and bad times have more chances to be resilient, to cope with changes ahead. Organizations who underinvest in the people by installing a shabby HR approach will pay a high cost. Not only will they be unable to tap into the people's resourcefulness, but they will have fostered negative behaviors that destroy value.
HR is not Hotel California. It's a critical process that creates a competitive advantage. Don't complain about it. Invest in it.