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Who Does HR Serve?

By January 16, 2011February 12th, 2023No Comments


Being someone whose Human Resources career was an accident – in other words, I came from the “other side of the fence,” the business, I have constantly struggled with who HR truly serves. My personal approach has been to provide extraordinary HR service to my clients – I serve the people. However, I’ve found that in most companies, HR serves almost everyone except the people. I know – a dichotomy, but stick with me here.

When I want to gauge my effectiveness, what programs to implement, how to approach/manage a situation, I look to my business partners to figure out how I can serve them best. The business is where my loyalty lays. According to the “true” HR professionals – the ones that have only worked in HR, their approach is quite different. They do what HR wants them to do – push out a program, no problem – never mind that it will add absolutely zero value to the business that you are supporting; deliver the same programs year-over-year without tweaking or improving them – of course, we need a consistent template doesn’t the business KNOW that? I need my CLIENTS to want to partner with me and that means that I need to deliver value to them in ways that move the needle. Apparently this is at the expense of my fellow HR team members “liking” me. I push back, I ask questions, I want to know how everything will IMPACT Marketing or Sales or Clinical – how will this form/strategy/template/etc. address their specific people issues? I don’t just push “HR things” out, I challenge them. It creates extremely happy customers who trust me and know that I am not going to waste their time.

HR people tend to report into “HR” – not a lofty concept, but why aren’t we directly responsible to our clients? I’m specifically referring to an HR business partner role here. If our merit is dependent upon delivering strategic solutions and partnering with the business, then why aren’t we actually part of the business? Can HR work reporting into the business directly with dotted or shared reporting relationships to “HR” to share best practices that way?

I ask because HR has a bad reputation – we are seen often times as the dumping ground for employees who just don’t work out elsewhere, or who don’t have critical skills to deliver in other areas. At my current company, HR was a rotational opportunity – no real HR expertise or experience was needed, you just needed to be a decent “manager” with some “potential.” To me and hopefully to you, HR is a profession – we can deliver significant value and solutions that enrich not only the culture, but engage the company’s biggest asset, their people. Until HR is able to BE ABOUT THE CLIENT, we will never gain the credibility and respect truly dedicated HR professionals deserve.

Photo by elycefeliz