Having worked ‘in-house’ for much of my career and more recently as a consultant, I’ve had seen both sides. This is particularly illuminated when one performs a detailed ‘access all areas’ HR audit. Matching the needs of the business against the capability and remit of the HR function. Often it can be a bigger gap than anyone realises.
New role in HR – Work out what you need to do to fit in
When you begin a new role with a Company they are keen that you bring new ideas and change things. But many quickly realise that the most important thing to learn is ‘How they do things around here’. For in many companies not working that out quickly could mean one is not in post long enough to do more than just be new.
Companies by their very nature are insular. The individuals that do well are either the very brave and talented who do their own thing but bring in so much revenue that no-one cares. Equally those that are extremely corporate will have long and successful careers. Individuals that are very bright will move on naturally because there will be many options for them. Those that are clearly poorly performing will be moved on. But everyone else stays.
So, in that context the parameters of what ‘good HR’ looks like are set. This will almost certainly involve maintaining unique processes and ways of doing things. Quirky administrative approaches. Often long winded. And all the unwritten stuff about who gets fired quickly and how. And what gets ignored or isn’t deemed officially important.
HR ignore half their customers
When a Company initiates an HR audit what they often want to know is how do we compare with our competitors? Do we have the right resources and skills in HR. Too much or too little? That answer is always unique to the organisation as often it is driven by individuals and/or the sector. If you have someone very senior that insists that HR is all about administration and problem solving and nothing more than that will dictate who you have in your function. If you are in a sector where you have high turnover and a lot of ER problems that may require some intense catch up before you move to a different model.
Companies have different motivations for HR audit from are we compliant (will I get my bonus?) right through to do we have the skills and talent in HR and the remit to achieve what the ambitious CEO and board want to achieve. Often there is quite a gap.
And HR still exclusively focus their activities on ‘employees’. The self-employed, the flexible labour and the workforce of tomorrow are largely ignored which is a bit like only caring about the customers that visit your store and not the ones that shop occasionally on-line or could be buying your products.
Most HR process are substantially similar – not substantially different.
In an article written by Ruud Rikhof, Managing Partner of KennedyFitch he states “We believe that 80% of the activities in HR are substantially similar from company to company, not substantially different”. So, if it is substantially similar, why would you need it “in-house and customised” when you could pass it on to someone else, do it quicker and save money?
So many HR practitioners talk about Best in class. So many CEO’s don’t share these aspirations as they see such a process as long winded, expensive and distracting from core business.
Do ‘best in class’ processes you have contribute to the bottom line?
Whilst core HR processes should be agile and robust, they will never give your business a competitive edge. So, it’s wise to focus what resource you have on the things that will.
One of the issues about benchmarking your company’s HR needs against another is that whatever standard you use may not be the right one.
Your performance management system may have won awards and have some great technology with it – but does it drive performance?
You may have invested in a fantastic HR software system – but where are the reports and does anyone use or understand it apart from HR?
So, do you know what is right and important for your organisation and is that where you are directing your resources?
Individuals want an individual experience
When you go out to market to hire exceptional talent, the person you offer to is unique. You are excited about them joining and may even create a different package to get them on board. The CEO will take an interest in their on-boarding. But at that point the individual approach begins to wane. HR will get anxious that the Company is being inconsistent and will want the new hire to be treated the same as everyone else.
We have observed that increasingly individuals demand that they are treated as individuals. It’s often a deal breaker. Yet in-house HR activities are focussed on treating everyone the same.
What are the alternatives?
Many companies value their long serving loyal HR administrator. Key thing is to ensure you have the right level of senior HR challenge and expertise.
Equally you can contract out the administration, investing in a good system and employ a bright career hungry HR professional to work with your leaders and focus on the big things for your Company.
Many companies have an Employment lawyer on speed dial which absolutely supports the reactive problem solving risk adverse model that is hardly likely to have your HR function doing things differently.
Of course you can have both. HR lead in-house and HR admin in house. But that then results in what many businesses have now. A cost centre that stops more than it starts and manages problems.
Getting your HR capability right can be a powerful tool for increased competitive advantage. Especially in a challenging market