When I say Human Resources is a function, I mean it is the responsibility of every manager, supervisor, or team leader to undertake the function of human resources management.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had a supervisor say to me “I have no time to manage people, there is too much work to do!” But I have never heard “I have no time to manage work. I have to manage my people!”. People who lead staff need to balance managing tasks with managing people. When you manage people, they will make sure the work gets done. On the other hand, when you focus on managing tasks, things like recognizing good work, addressing employee concerns or dealing with performance issues slip through the cracks. The question to ask yourself, as a people leader, is what impact does not dealing with these issues have on quality and productivity?
So, if managing Human Resources is the role of the managers and supervisors, you might ask what is the role of the Human Resources Department? It is to provide you with the advice, assistance and tools to help you make sure you have the right people in the right positions doing the right things. The role of HR is not to tell you what you cannot do – we should NOT be compliance cops – but to provide you with the tools and advice to not only deal with challenges, but also to help you keep your employees engaged and productive. And if all else fails, HR will help you release poor performers to industry in a way that protects the organization and is fair to the employee.
That is not to say HR is never going use the compliance hammer. Another one of our roles is also to help the organization stay on the right side of the law. When you come to HR and tell us you are finally ready to terminate that person that no one else has dealt with, we have an obligation to let you know what it will take to do that and keep the organization compliant legally (ie. lots of money in severance). HR professionals will also offer performance management options should there not be money or an appetite to do the termination after you have talked to senior leadership and found out they are not willing to put thousands of dollars into a severance package.
I urge Human Resources professionals to take note of this as well. Don’t get caught in the rut of being perceived as compliance cops! HR professionals are there to help our people leaders succeed and get the most from their people. HR can provide tools and advice, but we cannot do the manager’s job. Like many corporate support departments, we should be looking for a way to say yes, not automatically saying no. We need to be supportive to truly become partners in the organization, not be seen as a hurdle to overcome.
Human Resources management is a function that every person who is responsible for people in an organization has to be involved in. It is up to managers and supervisors to manage your Human Resources, not the HR Department. The HR team should be there to help you when you need support.
Note: I welcome comments and questions from managers and other HR professionals on this or other HR topics.