When do you need HR?
The counter question is “when do you go to the dentist? The answer though clichéd but appropriate in a typical Indian context and mindset is, “when you are unable to eat or chew and the pain is killing you”. You only go to a dentist when eating becomes impossible or you cannot take the pain any further. Until then you try to manage, try grandma’s clove therapy or maybe chew from the side that is not hurting. Then a time comes when nothing works and you have to put aside all your ‘Very Important’ tasks and find time to seek help.
So is with HR, most of the senior leadership in companies resort to HR when either day to day managing of people gets out of control or when the performers begin to leave or there is a sudden realization of employee dissatisfaction or there is realization that the quality of people in the organization is below average and would stifle growth… in a nutshell, when things go out of hand. Until then HR is always a last priority; this mindset is baffling because any senior management can read the signals but instead of nipping the issues in the bud they generally wait for the situation to go out of hand and then there is a rush to HR to set things right. And then again a ‘First Aid’ is expected to provide immediate relief instead of a ‘permanent cure’.
Is this mindset OK in the current business scenario? The answer is an emphatic ‘No’ but the senior leadership procrastinates or defers long term HR initiatives and instead continues to focus more on the short term results probably because those are more tangible in nature. If it relates to statutory compliance or today’s productivity, it will be done and if immediate results of something cannot be perceived, it becomes less important and takes a backseat.
HR initiatives are always ‘near permanent cures’ that require investment of time and money. There are no ‘quick fixes’. The effects are to be felt in the long term and have a permanency. If results are to be achieved, the patient and doctor have to work together. The doctor can set a fractured bone right, but if the patient does not cooperate, give time for therapy, the doctor cannot really be held responsible for the outcome… Similarly, while its important to design effective HR policies but the outcome will depend on how well the management is able to implement them.
There is a growing awareness and much talk about the importance of HR initiatives in creating high performance environment. Yet the discussions usually get limited to ‘intent’, to what should be or what is wrong. Time becomes a scarce commodity when it comes to taking ‘action’. There are always more pressing daily issues to take care of instead of finding time for people practices.
HR systems and strategies imply more productivity and higher talent retention. Organizations that have spent time and money on HR initiatives are the organizations which have grown and thrived. Any company that has a brand value, either in the domestic or global market, has one thing in common… very strong people practices institutionalized across all its units. It’s because they know and understand “Taking care of business means taking care of people”. No point quoting names here. All the ‘Great Places to work’ globally and Fortune 500 companies are live examples.
The most expensive tools in the hands of wrong people are worthless and the simplest of tool in the hands of the right person can produce results worth millions.
This is just food for thought for management teams to decide whether it is worth spending time on people practices or not, whether it is better to remain focused on the more tangible short term or to build upon the less tangible but long term, whether it is more comfortable to continue fighting fire on a daily basis or have a high performance culture where crisis management is a once in a while activity, whether it is ok to just have an ‘intent’ of making things better or acting upon the intent to actually make them better…
Choice is entirely with the management team and it comes with a caveat. A decision to move beyond ‘intent’ will require commitment of TIME, doing things one might have never done before, a paradigm shift from being ‘transactional’ to ‘transformational’, patience to answer awkward questions from subordinates and to actually start DEMONSTRATING care for people’s growth and welfare… Unfortunately no HR can do any of these on anyone’s behalf…
So is your team willing to take the call and move from mere intent to action…?