I pose this question because I know from many years of experience it is not at all clear to many people in business. It is interesting to see as consultants to management that very often even senior managers really do not have a good grasp on what an HR Management function can/should do in a business. In many cases, less seasoned or incompetent ‘HR Professionals’ have given the profession a poor name by exercising their “power” to be the ‘HR Police’ in a business, essentially telling managers what they can and can’t do when it comes to dealings with employees. These same ‘HR Professionals’ almost always lack the required skill sets to be effective in the HR function, so they resort to building their own personal power base – very bad for the company. If not this, often the less experienced HR Manager will take on the role of ‘counselor’ to all employees on any issue, when in fact they are usually not skilled to be doing this (and at the expense of all the other things they should be doing).
This is not at all what proper HR Management is about.
I have personally had very smart, successful clients that are smart enough to know they need help on the people management part of their business, but they don’t really know in what areas or what an expected outcome could be, or exactly where an HR professional can truly add value. Ironically, these same people would all agree that solid HR Management in a business is a good thing; it is just that they can’t really articulate what this looks like. Why do you think this is?
My thinking is they cannot clearly see the connect between employee motivation, competence, culture and financial results. It is often easy to see when things go wrong, such as a poor performing employee in a key job; but what would it look like or what would be the result if a whole bunch of things were improved in a relatively short time period? What I mean is, if employees were very significantly motivated to perform their jobs better, if all employees were exceptionally competent in their jobs and in knowing how the business works, and if there was a culture such that it would on its own attract top performing employees.
I am not surprised at all anymore to go into a new and seemingly successful client and see quite a few of the very basics of good people management missing. For example: an unstructured hit & miss type approach to recruiting, poor people management skills in managers, (not treating employees with respect or not providing any meaningful performance feedback) employees whose jobs are not clearly defined, and lack of any feedback system on employee performance. And oh, yes, if all this is missing, you can bet there is also a lack of any people policies.
So, then, what would it look like if all this were in place? The short answer is, VERY different. But why go through all this just to look different? Looking different is only one result of proper/professional HR management intervention. The real reason to do all of this is to run your business better, service your customers better, realize operating efficiencies, and ultimately improve the bottom-line financial performance.
Why then, do so many organizations not improve their people management processes? My answer is that they have likely not worked in an environment where proper people management was ingrained, so they don’t have the proper frame of reference, or that even if they have seen this, they have no idea how to get there. The good news in all of this….a skilled HR Management consultant can have a huge impact and get all the above mentioned areas working properly in a relatively short period of time, because they have repeatable processes and experience at other company HR implementations.