The Single Most Important Thing HR Must Get Right

Cartoon by Tom Cheney

Purpose. In my opinion, this is the single most important thing that HR needs to get right as the effectiveness of everything else it does depends on it.

Without a clear understanding of its own higher intent it is bound to remain an event management function organizing ad-hoc recruitment drives, training programs and irrelevant R&R policies.In my experience, this understanding of the bigger picture is very often lacking in HR departments, especially at the execution levels. This lack of strategic thinking often makes HR no more than a support function to the operations instead of being a fully participating business function.

What does the HR function want to achieve and why?

In a recent #indiahrchat with Debjani Ghosh, MD Intel India, on “Strengthening the relationship between the C-suite and HR“, a lot of participants were pointing out that the C-Suite rarely gave HR as much importance as it gave to Sales or Operations. My question is: “Who’s responsible for this?” HR can go on complaining about this or actually make the C-suite notice by becoming a strategic partner instead of just another cost center. And to do this, in my opinion, HR must know where it wants to go, why and how that aligns, or not, with the overall business strategy.

“Culture eats Strategy for breakfast” apparently said Peter Drucker. HOW the organizations operates precedes and sets a framework for WHAT it must do. If  we consider this true, then HR is responsible for engaging in, sometimes, difficult conversations with the business itself to help it realize some of its unrealistic expectations. But for this to happen, HR needs to understand its own purpose.

If HR wants to have a seat at the c-suite table and receive the same respect then the traditionally revenue generating functions it must be comfortable in the fact that they might not always agree. A clear sense of purpose can only help them in making their expectations clear to the business in order for both of them to define a way to work together that will validate the organization;s culture AND the business imperatives.

With a clear sense of purpose, the HR function will better be able to build and tell a compelling story that which will make it, hopefully, lose the derogatory nickname of (in)Human Resources.

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