It doesn’t seem very strategic, but recently a number of start-up company and related issues have hit the Internet in various ways that make one think about HR from other points of view than the large-company situations we usually expect are driving strategy in the field. One, for instance, was directly about sex jokes and who’s helping organizations deal with them,
This hit home further when listening to the webcast for SCNetwork’s most recent event (nice they are now available to members in recorded form afterward). In their annual “Tool Time” event, one of the four practitioners invited was a CEO who started his small, but successful company at age 15 and is only now, 25 years later, adding HR to the business. He told several hilarious tales about why this was very much needed, which I won’t repeat out of school, but the gist was the common story: they were just too busy getting things done to think about what often seem like complicated people implications. I expect most of this will be reported in the commentaries on the session due to be published in Canadian HR Reporter in a couple of weeks.
In addition, several African governments and related organizations have emphasized the need for HR (for example) to get things done. Once again the spectre rises of ‘too busy’ to get to it, with the resulting drag on results and healthy organization. But the good news is the message about the value of HR strategy and applications is spreading increasingly widely.
With this spread, the remaining questions start to come truly into clearer focus. As more and more is written about the value of effective HR, we have to ask if many people understand what that is. We don’t have to go very far to see pieces still being written about the same old beefs about HR being the police, the drag on performance from too much process, from a poor lack of understanding of whatever business it’s in.
The central issues is that HR needs to support the business and still find ways of introducing needed logic and process, ways to accelerate performance while making sure employees are working in a positive environment, free from harassment, bullying and with support, yet a certain amount of autonomy to put forward and try out their own ideas as well as coaching to get them onside with the company’s ideas.
The challenge that arrives front and center is that these are contradictory requirements and anyone who wants to make fun of HR can find dozens of examples in even the best organizations where someone, often someone in HR, erred on one side or the other. They let employees run wild, have the wrong type of ‘fun’ or (Yahoo?) work at home, autonomous, but with no controls. Or they set up the controls and are enforcing them too rigidly, destroying creativity and innovation.
Sound familiar? The fact is there is no way to make this less of a tightrope walk. Balance is the key, but to find a balance you have to sway to one side, then the other. The trick is to moderate the gyrations so they don’t result in falling completely off balance at any point. Moreover, to succeed, HR needs to help senior executives, who like decisive, final solutions, to walk the same tightropes, to struggle with the same balancing acts.
And the most fundamental balancing act of all? Knowing when to forge forcefully forward toward a goal and ‘damn the torpedoes’ and when to take a breath and reflect, to listen and gather opinions from staff with other novel ideas.
With that I’ll let you reflect for a bit, till at least next week, but just say that there has simultaneously been a rash of ‘brain science’ studies published with interesting implications about how and why we make decisions, whether we think through or just react to situations, all of which could be very enlightening on this subject.