September 2, 2006

Sometimes I wonder what the HR guys are up to. There are big talks these days about the strategic role HR has to play. But do the HR guys really know enough of operational and business issues to play a real strategic role?

A few days back I was attending a high level cross functional meeting. The discussion drifted to an issue involving improvement of order processing at depots. The HR guy readily came up with a solution that seemed theoretically perfect. But for anyone who has been to depot and witnessed how orders are processed, the solution would seem impractical and devoid of commonsense. No surprise that the top guy of supply chain present at the meeting promptly brought sense to this HR guy. This is not an isolated case. These kinds of things happen too frequently.

The problem with HR is that it is too self centered. It views things from an HR perspective rather than a business perspective. It often fails to see the big picture and lacks a deep understanding of business.

Before HR guys can play strategic role, they need to become more market savvy. They need to understand their customer and her needs - what she wants and what she doesn't - well before they formulate an idea and sell it to her. Just peddling ideas generated by their own myopic understanding will do no good to either the organization or themselves. An example: The HR comes up with a training program for frontline sales personnel. The vice president of sales, someone well aware of ground realities and way things happen at ground zero, goes through it and frowns and then wonders how that would help his boys. No wonder so many training programs fail to get desired results!

So if HR really wants to find a place under the strategy roof, then it should focus on the following:

  1. Learn the business first; think about HR later.
  2. Frequently visit market place, shop floors, R&D laboratory, packaging development labs, IT guys’ terminals, and bean counter’s den. Learn how things move in the organization.
  3. Customize theories into practical solutions based on the insights gathered through frequent interaction within and outside the organization.
  4. Think business, think leadership, think of the big picture and how you can help fit the different pieces of puzzles to reach that big picture.
  5. Learn to ask “what if” type questions frequently.
Hey, the typical HR guy, awake, arise, and move fast up the strategic ladder before big time trouble starts. Time is running out!

2 comments

  1. Ajit Chouhan // September 5, 2006 at 4:05 PM  

    Bhai...I've posted my views on HR Funda .Let me know your views.

  2. Rajesh Kumar // September 8, 2006 at 11:44 PM  

    It is not about HR. It is about the ability to put yourself in other person's shoes and think. Sales & Marketing, Finance & Sales, Production & Sales are some of the typical combinations that immediately come to my mind where such issues are common. I feel a lot of it happens because people do not have any cross functional knowledge and exposure. My hunch is that this would be less in organisations where job rotation is practiced, not just preached. My humble thoughts.

    - Rajesh