The role of HR in business has never gotten as much attention as it does today. Oh sure, business researchers and consultants have been touting the importance of management since the beginning of the modern industrial age. Peter Drucker first told us that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. George Odiorne taught us to “manage by objectives” and Jim Collins wanted to make sure we had “the right people on the bus”. But lately, academic institutions like Harvard, and business think tanks like Deloitte are providing mountains of data proving that specific HR practices can make a big difference in revenue and profitability for a company.
With information so overwhelming and seemingly clear, one would think that every company on the planet would be focused on the HR function. Instead, most don’t even know what HR does, let alone how it can impact the bottom line.
Why isn’t HR more revered in organizations? Here’s some thoughts:
- HR is a long game. Work with people doesn’t yield immediate results. Learning and growing takes time, and changes are subtle and hard to notice. Training and development, performance management, and culture change are painfully slow – most business leaders gravitate toward a quicker result.
- HR isn’t logical. By sheer definition, HR is people. People have differing views on the world and free will. People will get mad when they don’t like your decision, and may yell at you or (worse) cry when something unpleasant happens. Working with spreadsheets and physical inventories requires less emotional investment.
- HR can be limiting. The HR function has evolved into the corporate cop. True, there are laws that companies must follow to stay out of jail. But so many company rules and restrictions are designed for the 10% outliers, even though they include the other 90%. And even processes that are helpful (like performance management systems or onboarding programs) can be painful if they’re too procedure heavy and rigid.
It’s easy to see why HR isn’t always popular, but don’t let that taint your opinion. The messages you read in the corporate annual reports are spot on; people are a business’s most important resource. And that resource is becoming more difficult to find and more confounding to engage. Organizations that succeed in the future will value their Chief Human Resource Officer at the same level that they value their Chief Sales & Marketing Officer or their Chief Financial Officer. Because when people in a business are working hard toward a common goal, the business will make money. And as those people share a journey of growth and success together, the relationships they build with each other will leave them wealthy beyond measure.