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06 2011

Can HR Own the World?

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

In previous posts I’ve argued for HR jumping in to take the lead in newer, somewhat undefined areas that we know companies need to evolve into – for instance, measurement of many HR programs and policies is an obvious one, but social media is more of a current hot topic. On both HR has solid reasons for jumping in first and driving the agenda. In fact, there are many parts of any organization that don’t function as well as they could and those are all areas where HR could take a lead role in improving things. That might even reach up to the C-suite where the Board might be wise to look at the CEO and other C-level incumbents with a view to improving performance. Of course, you can’t do everything, so you have to pick your areas – ones where you think you will get results and where you think you will survive. I won’t say ‘where you are safe to tread’ since a key part of leadership is taking risks and pushing limits. For instance, you may well be able to coach C-suite members, but hesitate because they won’t accept it willingly and may retaliate. Survival is a serious issue to consider. If a particular project you really believe in is clearly not survivable, you have to make decisions. Is it worth pursuing even if it results in you being pushed out or can you contribute satisfactorily (in your view) by staying away from that project and tackling lesser ones that nonetheless make a difference? Every leader at least sometimes has to come to terms with such questions. It’s not optional, but a clear aspect of leading. If the stuff isn’t tough, others would be doing it. It’s pretty scary and awfully presumptuous perhaps for HR to think it can wield authority in areas that haven’t been previously defined for it, but that’s what being a valued contributor to a senior team is all about. Every member of the team ought to have opinions and ideas for improving every other area. Silos often prevent team members from even raising these thoughts, but that in itself is something that falls into a key role HR is intended to consider. Organizations function better without silos, but someone has to tackle the questions of how to get rid of them. So, no, HR can’t own the entire world, but does have an opportunity to choose to take on significant pieces of it, areas that other functions in the organization probably wouldn’t dream of touching or areas that others, who could take them on, aren’t. HR is the only function that shares with the CEO the responsibility for what’s going on in every area of the organization. In sales you worry about sales and maybe about ‘adjacent’ areas – engineering of the products you are being asked to sell and the marketing and social media issues, but you rarely find sales worrying about what’s happening day-to-day in IT or finance or how to fix them. Yes, they may have opinions at a distance, but hardly the access directly into the heart of what makes those organizations function the way HR potentially does. So deciding where and how to attempt to lead is a challenging set of choices for HR, knowing that you can’t own the entire world. It gives one freedom to focus where it will make the biggest difference, but how many HR functions sit down and actually attempt to decide that? Bookmark and share this post More »

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