How does HR serve your company?

by | April 1, 2014

Blog written by Michelle Bomberger.

Human Resources… what does it bring to mind for you?   I think the image depends a lot on the context of your experience with HR.  For those of us who have been in very large companies, HR is the part of the company that makes sure the “people stuff” gets done.  When you’re hired, they create and collect the paperwork.  They ensure performance reviews are done by managers.  They answer questions about benefits and compensation.   HR makes the people stuff work in big companies.   HR is the place for process and compliance, not for innovation.   By contrast, HR barely exists in small companies.  The office manager or purchasing manager or other “catch all” individual who can get the people stuff done.  Again, the focus is on getting paperwork on file and working through problems and conflicts as they arise.  There’s not usually a lot of thought about how HR can serve or grow the business.  Is that the only role HR has – compliance and paperwork?

With the shifting focus on the importance of people in the business – just look around at all the books, articles and discussions about leading, hiring, and retaining talent — HR has an opportunity to lead the effort in making people front and center in a company’s strategy.   People are the heart and soul of the company. They project the company’s values and brand as they interact with customers, vendors, and each other every day.  You can’t ignore the impact they have or diminish the role they play; but our approach to people is a formal “HR” function that focuses on hiring, compliance, benefits, and terminations.   They aren’t given the mandate to develop people for the organization.

But it’s not just a mandate to HR to “innovate.”   We’ve seen lots of trendy, cool people-focused activities such as game rooms, flex time, and stock options.  However, every company is unique.  Its HR department may be in-house or outsourced, it may be one person or 50 people, and its mandate may be strictly compliance or team building.  Because company and team needs differ, the solutions must also be tailored to the situation and company culture.  Regardless of what HR looks like, the company’s leadership must give the team a mandate to build and develop its people as the primary mandate.  There is no right way for HR to do this; but if HR is granted permission to think about what the company’s people need and build solutions to develop those people, they are on the road to success.