Human Resources – Role Conflict

Is HR bringing the right value to your organization? 

For the final blog in this series, I’ve saved the best for last – a discussion of HR’s role, and I’d really love for every HR professional who reads this to put in his/her two cents worth on this topic.

Almost every HR article I’ve read, professional HR conference I’ve attended, or trade association seminar I’ve taken has featured a module of some sort on gaining the credibility necessary to sit at “the table.”  Yes, even in 2013, the conversation is on-going.  I think that most HR professionals trust and rightly feel proud of the skills they bring to their organizations, but often feel put in the position of having to constantly prove themselves and/or feel defensive about the role they play.

And no wonder. Even we can’t agree on the role we play. We talk about our strategic outlook, yet feel threatened when HR transactions become centralized or outsourced. We focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness and value. We want to sit at the table, yet some of us play the role of process facilitators at the expense of our HR content expertise just to get seated, rather than having the confident to leverage both content and process. We want to contribute value to the business, but often take sides as either employee advocates or tools of management. We want to be perceived as business professionals, but often speak in “psycho-babble” when discussing people issues and show disinterest in the financial, competitive, and business environments of our organizations.

Another problem is we often blame others for our perceived second-class status. It’s the CEO who doesn’t get it; it’s the reporting structure into Finance; it’s the mountain of paperwork – etc., etc.

In 2005, there was an article in a Silicon Valley trade journal that went viral. It was called Why We Hate HR, an indictment of every bad HR stereotype you could ever imagine. The response in the HR community was enormous and predictable: Kill the Messenger. In fact, in my opinion, much of the article was true – and the reaction demonstrated that we are our own worst enemies.

I invited a CEO from a former employer, who had a love/hate relationship with HR, to speak to an HR forum about this article. I was pleasantly surprised that he not only accepted the invitation, but also took the assignment very seriously.

He made the case that in order to be seen credibly, we need to prove ourselves by creating agendas that relate to the business objectives of the company, by learning the company/industry vocabulary, understanding what’s important to the company, and developing expertise in the numbers. And in specific reference to this article, not be so sensitive to criticism. (He quite rightly pointed out that if he got angry about every critical article that was ever written about CEO’s in general, he’d never be able to be effective in what he did.)

But, I would also add, if we didn’t read these articles with at least intellectual curiosity, we would never be able to understand how we’re perceived, and learn to work on the correcting the perception rather than simply killing the messenger.

What are your thoughts?  Does your organization give HR appropriate credibility and is HR bringing the right value to your organization?  How can implementation of HR processes actually provide strategic benefit – and collect and report the data to measure and improve it?

Tell us your success stories as well as when you’ve hit some bumps in the road.

And come join the discussion on this topic on LinkedIn in the BPM Guru community.


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By Denise Pringle @ HRWorks! | April 9, 2013

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