The Untapped Potential of HR

Another CEO that I respect stated; “There is no doubt of the potential of HR to move my business forward; what is in doubt is the ability of HR to live up to that potential.” While this is stinging comment about the HR profession it is a reasonably fair comment. HR rarely lives up to its potential because the potential is almost unlimited. HR is part of the team that hires, retains, and develops the staff that is the next generation of the business. HR is responsible for a wide range of challenges involving the management of the human capital of the business, while being in charge of very little and having extremely limited authority in most businesses. HR’s potential impact is nothing less than the future of the business and HR, by design, must negotiate with other managers to accomplish the decisions that must be made.

The role of HR is to maximize the effectiveness and organization of your staff. This was elegantly put forward by the book “From Good to Great”. In this business classic the author expresses a goal of “Getting the right people on the bus” and putting them in the “Right Seat”. This is the potential of HR and the task is inherently difficult because every person put on the bus and every change in business strategy changes the right fit for the next seat. Proper assessment of your employees, contractors, and partners is critical to these bus decisions.

HR is a never ending stream of investigations, recommendations, negotiations, and decisions intended to assemble the best team. The problem, as every executive knows, is that there are a thousand ways to build a business, and not all people you build it with are the same. Right now our businesses are facing a very difficult economic period and it is time for many businesses to take roll call on the bus and assess the fitness of the team. This is where HR professionals can be a great asset to your management team.

HR’s role is to manage the complexities of job match and to establish policy that provides a fair system for managing the unavoidable conflicts that happen in every organization. Some degree of personality conflict is actually good for a business and certainly we need diversity when we are trying to solve complex business issues. With diversity comes conflict and competition and when managed properly these are assets not liabilities. A strong HR can contribute as a natural third party that brings the diversity together and helps focus it on the business objectives.
As we lead our organizations through this difficult economic period we need to make sure we have the right people on the bus, and HR should take a lead role in validating this. We need to deploy the best tools we have for staff assessments, examine group dynamics, and professional development plans. We need to be asking the tough questions like:

Do we have people that have been over promoted?

Do we have people that need to be promoted?

Do we have technical experts in leadership roles rather than creating innovation in the organization?

Do we have leaders in technical roles?

Do the styles of the various leaders fit together as a well balanced team?

Do we need every position that is authorized?

Are salaries in line with the current market?

Do we have obtainable and clearly expressed goals for each position?

Are goals across the organization aligned with each other?

Are bonuses and incentives designed for maximum advancement of the business?

Are policies and procedures updated for changes in technology and staffing?

Do we have effective team practices in place?

Are people properly motivated?

These are tough introspective questions about your business but those that answer and then address these issues will be the ones talking about how they flourished during the 2009 recession. In the current economic condition some are going extremely defensive cutting every expense in sight and going to into extreme defensive mode. While others are taking advantage of their competitor’s defensive position to gain market share. Which strategy is right for your business depends on who is on the bus and where you are going? It is time for the HR profession to step up and help their organizations facilitate this discussion.

Author: Sandra Dickerson Esq., Co-CEO, Your People Professionals

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