The Leader’s Role in “HR”

“It is ALWAYS about the people.” This comment, so eloquently spoken by a national company CEO, sums up much of the commentary we hear in business conversations. As a leader, you may spend most of your time dealing with people issues, or solving problems or advancing the business through others. Yet, what is your role when it comes to the human system called HR?

Every human system in your organization that involves people, from hiring through onboarding, training, performance management, compensation and rewards, must align with the company’s strategic intent, its values and core beliefs. In other words, its culture. This is where leaders have an important role to play – keeping people and process focused on what matters most, and what the organization believes is important.

If HR as a function or system represents the people side of the business, the leader’s role is to optimize all that HR can be. Where leaders can add most value is in making sure that people practices are designed and working to truly support the business, and do not become their own administrative burden. They must do this by ensuring enough but not too much structure, keeping the bureaucracy around people practices to a minimum. Policies and practices are tools for reinforcement and clarity of purpose and culture. But too often there is mistrust of people practices, because they can put your human systems in a box.

Templates that have been used for years or more recently downloaded off the internet, can’t possibly reflect the uniqueness of your organization and the value you place on your people, their performance, and potential. Policies that are written to police a few can be unduly restrictive for the many. Rote performance management processes can take away the very lifeblood of your organization – people’s energy, enthusiasm, and overall engagement. Onerous interview and selection practices can be a big turn-off for great candidates. Lock-step compensation that fails to reward exceptional performance is a decided demotivator. Restrictive practices around promotions and development can lead to turnover of your best players.

Creating and nurturing people practices is not easy; dealing with recruitment challenges can be very difficult; trying to get to the root causes of a dysfunctional team can require extraordinary amounts of time and sleepless nights. Yet, when individuals are performing at the top of their game and are aligned with the company’s vision and mission, and the business is winning in the marketplace – therein is the reward for every minute a leader has invested in aligning and growing people and systems so the business will prosper.

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