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Monday, December 13, 2010

Saving HR from Myopia

Myopia is a condition commonly known as nearsightedness. Nearsighted people have difficulty seeing distant objects clearly. This I believe is a perfect metaphor to describe the current condition of many HR practitioners in the Philippines and maybe elsewhere in the world. As in the physical condition, HR myopia can be cured but before any treatment is applied, an understanding the condition and the cause is essential.

I would say that there are two types of  HR myopia. One is obvious while the other one is a little harder to identify. I'd say that HR is obviously  myopic if it only tackles the "here and now" issues that typically occupy HR professionals. These include such chores as personnel records administration, employee services, disciplinary actions,day-to-day counseling,  occasional events management which include, company outing,Christmas party and again, occasional serving of  training. The goal of the sufferers of this condition is efficiency in carrying out the transactions. HR is bereft of any developmental initiative which I believe is an important role that HR professionals must play.

The second type of myopia is less obvious because HR is doing practically everything that it has to do according to HR bible. The company has a performance management system. There are strategies for everything, from recruitment, training, benefits administration, employee relations, career and succession planning. How do we know there's myopia in this one? When strategies are being put in place because HR must have them, when Performance management system is not being a useful tool for performance improvement or when the performance management tool is not being assessed in terms of effectiveness; when recruitment strategies are not delivering the expected output or when training is not being applied at work or when training is identified as a solution when the problem requires other forms of interventions. When HR does all these stuff for the heck of doing them rather than aligning people with organizational direction.

There are reasons why many HR practitioners suffer this condition. One primary is that HR transactions require the most immediate and consistent attention. Failure on the administrative side of HR tasks could cause massive dissatisfaction from both employees and management. Inefficient and inaccurate are two labels HR cannot afford to have. The focus and energy that HR put into the transactional aspects of the job helps them develop the necessary skills to do it. They in deed become so successful at it that it becomes their comfort zone. completing transactions after transactions and managing events with little or no complaints become HR's measure of success.

HR can do more and be more - The way many HR people measure themselves and the way others measure their performance can be worlds apart. I have seen situations when HR people lament that their job can be thankless and wonder why despite so much effort, neither management nor employees appreciate their work enough. I believe this is because Many of us in HR measure our work in terms of the effort and time we put in while others outside of HR measure us based on the impact of our contributions. They do not look at how much time we spent sourcing and screening people, they are more interested in how we are able to find the right people for the company. They are not concerned about how elegant your performance management system is, they are more interested in how they can get interested with it. This is because a lot of times, they're not. They don't see the connections between the HR initiated performance management system and performance improvement. This disconnect between HR and HR Outsiders' view of the department is causing a lot of dissatisfaction. If HR Department can only see itself better. If it can only show people that it can do more, it will be able to play the vital role of aligning people with organizational objectives.

HR Should correct itself - I believe that it is the responsibility of HR  professionals to upgrade themselves from being the company's gopher and paper pushers to becoming everyone's partner towards individual and organizational success. If they do this, they will be elevating the practice to a higher level. The wealth of information available out there to make this happen remain largely untouched because of disinterest. What I mean is if you research on how to make competency maps and profiles using the internet, you'll get all the information you need. But how many HR practitioners actually do that? I'd say they are a minority and if they do that, companies should find these people and hire them. I do not think becoming a strategic HR partner requires genius level intelligence. However, it requires a strategic mindset, courage, confidence in communicating and the absence of silo thinking. HR Professionals must be strong collaborators and seekers of partnership. Nothing that comes out of HR will work without buy-in and clarity. Therefore, HR must involve others from the identification to implementation of strategies.

If you are a young HR professional and you've reached this part of a rather long article without rolling your eyes to the back of your head, I congratulate you because a lot of the others would have given up. They don't have time for this and besides the next payroll cutoff is near. I also encourage you to heed my call of developing a strategic HR mindset. Keep your saw sharp by keeping abreast with HR best practices and finding our how you as an HR professional can be an effective organizational tool for human development and performance improvement. It can be done.

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