Not Your Grandfather’s HR

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Industrial growth has seen major changes over the last 100 years, and certainly in the area of what we now call Human Resources. While a common term today, this is a fairly recent name change to a department previously known as Personnel. Actually, even before Personnel was something called Industrial Welfare, which was primarily an outgrowth of trade unions to ensure safety in the work environment, particularly for women and girls. By the 1970’s, personnel departments began focusing more heavily on compliance and legal issues, and while they are often the administrators of benefits, the focus was less on people and more on paper.

The Human Resources function we are acquainted with today did not show up until the 1990’s, when we really began understanding the need for talent acquisition and retention. It is during this time we started using terms like human capital and having a more thorough understanding that HR should move beyond the compliance and legal aspect of the role into something more strategic, and much more people-focused.

While we still have some ground to cover, it is nice to see that there is a shift in how organizations are focused on the Human Resources department role changing to one that is more strategic. It will continue to increase in importance as the landscape for talent acquisition and retention changes. Overall, human capital is at a premium, and it’s certainly time to reconsider how we use our internal resources dedicated to this important part of our business to ensure we have the right people in the right place so that everyone is successful.

The Future of Human Resources

Recently I read an article on what needs to change with regard to Human Resources, and I wanted to share that information with you since I felt there were some very salient points. First, Human Resources must continue to morph into a more strategic, people-focused team that is dedicated to bringing forth the best in the corporate culture and the people. This means finding ways to handle administrative tasks using technology to free up important resources to focus on the people. With that in mind, the article provided some interesting metrics that I think are worth mentioning:

Metric 1 – Define and Align Organizational Purpose – employees are simply more motivated to do a great job if they feel they are in personal alignment with the company for which they work. Studies have proven that companies with a higher organizational purpose have less turnover. The simple reason is they are able to align talent acquisition in such a way that everyone benefits.

Metric 2 – Recruit Talent Who Will Love Your Organization – made easier by metric 1. When people come to work for a company that they believe in, it makes for a much better workday. To make this work, many old-style interview tactics and ideas must be thrown out the window. You ask questions about that person and what motivates him or her, find out what really makes them tick, and then make sure that it aligns with the organization. Hiring strictly for skills will not get your employees who love your organization.

Metric 3 – Focus on Employee Strengths – this is crucial, because we have all hired someone who did not work out simply because we had that person in the wrong role. Changing the recruiting and interviewing process will help you learn more about the potential employee. There are plenty of assessments available to assist in this process, but nothing will replace good old fashioned conversation. If an employee is not doing well, don’t just write him off. Find out what is going on. You may end up with a rock star in a different department just by doing a little due diligence.

Metric 4 – Create Organizational Alignment – I think too often HR is seen as the “enforcer” of rules and regulations. Truthfully this critical department should be the cheerleaders of the company. The employees should feel they have advocates in HR who will assist them in reaching their goals, answering questions and making their tenure successful. HR leaders have a great opportunity to bring a unified voice to an organization and positively impact success across the board by changing the focus to ensure the vision and purpose is understood.

Metric 5 – Accurately Measure the Right Things – just like any department within an organization that has gone through changes, it is easy to continue to measure “what we have always done” rather than think about what really will impact the company going forward. It’s important to measure what will keep the company on track with the vision and purpose (rather than how many reviews were done or if the benefits administration process happened faster than last year). Metrics should align with strategic purpose goals, rather than the more administrative type goals we have used in the past.

I agree with the article that now is a great time for Human Resources departments to reconsider their role within the organization. Moving to one that is more strategic and purpose driven will certainly ensure that the other roles are in alignment and can happen more easily. After all, it is easier to attract and retain the right talent if you know who you are as a company, and how your employees will be successful!

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