I have recently been a part of conducting several HR Compliance and Effectiveness Assessments for our clients and one of the first questions we ask the executives and employees that we talk to is, “What do you think Human Resources is responsible for?” We ask them to think in general terms and not just what HR is doing at their current organization.
Here is a sample of ten responses I have heard regarding what HR does:
- “reads resumes”
- “interview coordination”
- “new hire paperwork”
- “performance review process”
- “tracking PTO”
- “company picnics”
- “being a confidant to talk about employee issues and being available”
- “written warnings”
- “let go of employees”
Are any of these responses wrong? No. HR is usually responsible for all of those things. However, I was a little surprised that the majority of the responses we got were all transactional functions in nature. In fact, quite honestly, I was a little disappointed that most of the executives I interviewed did not see HR as a function that could be strategic and value add. With that being said though, they must have known that HR could do more than what they were getting from their current HR team or else we wouldn’t have been there.
What Do the Best HR Departments Do?
Yes, HR certainly handles all of the operational tasks such as sourcing resumes, generating and sending offer letters, conducting new hire orientations and processing new hire paperwork, administering benefits, processing employee status changes such as pay changes, promotions, and transfers, administering the performance review cycle, resolving employee issues and answering questions, terminating employees, and complying with reporting and record keeping requirements. These are the things that employees expect and must get done for the organization. Generally, I see smaller organizations operating at this level. They often do not have dedicated HR staff and do just enough to get people on board and try to retain them.
Many organizations take the HR function to the next level. Those HR Departments are involved in more tactical tasks, where they are developing HR policies and processes, assimilating new employees into the organization, managing talent, which includes performance management, developing career paths, implementing training and development programs, and aligning compensation and benefits programs with best practices.
The Best HR
The best HR professionals, however, are able to sit at the table as part of the executive team and discuss business planning and initiatives. They are able to strategize on how to align human capital programs with the organization’s mission, vision, and values. They analyze metrics and ask for employee feedback to determine how they can increase engagement and retention. They prepare the organization for the future by identifying skills gaps and implementing programs to fill those gaps either by developing a network to attract new talent or training the current talent. They implement leadership programs and develop succession plans to ensure the organization will be prepared and able to continue to succeed when members of management begin to move on.
The Evolution of HR
The HR profession has grown significantly over the last 70 to 100 years. In the early 1900’s HR was seen, (and by the answers we get in our assessment interviews it still is seen in some of today’s organizations,) as paper pushers and event coordinators. World War I was really the catalyst for the HR profession. As the demand for labor went up and the labor supply went down, companies were finding it more difficult to keep workers. They had to find creative ways to attract and retain employees.1 The labor market today is so incredibly competitive and we are seeing employees from today’s generation jumping around a lot more than Baby Boomers ever did. As such, organizations have to find ways to attract, engage, and retain top talent while contributing to the organization’s bottom line. HR can do so much more for your organization than just the operational tasks. Your people are your most important asset to ensuing your success and having the right HR leader and giving him or her a seat at the executive table could be your answer to finding what so many are searching for.
The executives that I have worked with on HR Compliance and Effectiveness Assessments were all looking for ways to make their HR Department more effective. They knew their HR Department could be adding more value to the organization, they just maybe didn’t know how much more value. Inviting Helios in to conduct an HR Compliance and Effectiveness Assessment was very brave and the first step toward improving their organization’s culture, competitiveness, and ultimately success. Make the most of your HR department today!
Society for Human Resource Management.
A History of Human Resources: SHRM’s 60 Year Journey. Alexandria, VA.
Society for Human Resource Management, 2008.