Posted: Tuesday 22 July 2014. Author: Capita HR solutions.
A FRIEND once (jokingly) tried to push a few buttons by telling me that a manager in his business thought HR stood for ‘Hardly Relevant’. Okay, it was one I heard before, but rather than get offended I started to think about why that that type of opinion might be held. And the answer I came to is…. because there is an awful lot of mediocre HR work being done out there. And I don’t mean bad HR, I mean plain old common or garden, average HR. As my son would say; ‘meh’ HR.
So what is the difference between great HR and average HR? And don’t worry – this isn’t a call to arms for outstanding leadership and cutting edge organisational development strategies. I’ll start with the basics. Great HR people will make a call. They will offer a range of options, sure, that’s only to be expected but they will also be unafraid to nail their colours to the mast and tell you what they think the right decision is, not the safe one or the politically correct one – but the right decision for the business and sometimes that might mean a compromise agreement or redundancies or it might simply be telling management it’s better to suck it up and do nothing.
Great HR people understand the entire business ecosystem, not just their little part. They get how everything fits together, the risks, the history, the future plans, the personalities and the technical issues. They understand the butterfly effect, how a tin of paint knocked over in a workshop can result in a strike two months later. This means they also stay fluid, ready for and able to anticipate change.
Great HR people don’t need to be asked. They go out and do. They come armed with suggestions, ideas and theories. They push their opinions forward and argue the case with colleagues and senior managers. They understand there is a world away from their office/desk and seek out the key stakeholders rather than wait for them to drop by. They also have a healthy dose of realism and understand that they should not take offence if most of their suggestions take a long time (if ever) to get implemented unless an immediate bottom line impact is evident.
Statistics? Even average HR people love statistics. The difference is that good HR people will ensure that whatever metrics are reported on each month are analysed, impacted, translated into language other managers understand, risk assessed and courses of action planned before distribution. They do not passively pass the statistics along as they are and hope that will do. They will also re-evaluate their usefulness on a regular basis. Statistics for the sake of paper generation and creating ‘busy’ work are the province of the average. Great HR people also understand reality. They understand that people make jokes they shouldn’t. They understand that use of the word ‘stress’ can be genuine or mischievous. They understand that 100 per cent employee engagement is a great target to aspire towards but sometimes 70-80 percent is as good as you will get and that some people just want to do a days work and go home, rather than move up the corporate ladder.
Finally, great HR people will always find a way to quantify what they do in business terms. They will be able to demonstrate how they affect the bottom line, in language operational people understand. The average HR folk – well… they will always run the risk of being seen as ‘hardly relevant’.