Recently I was asked by a client to conduct an assessment for the value HR added to their business. Now that was an interesting question! Of course I could’ve looked at the maturity of their HR processes, the impact of the tools and/or the capability of the HR team, but to be honest that would provide a very superficial answer.

The 2 questions I had to ask myself is:

  1. Who first determines what value is?
  2. Is this value being added?

Think about giving your loved ones their Christmas presents or any other gift for that matter. The most expensive ones are not necessarily the ones the receivers value most. The value of something is dependent on how the receiver perceives it and not by how the giver views it. In HR, we often believe that we’re doing an amazing job and our processes are state of the art, whereas people simply aren’t impressed by the outcomes we’re producing. So instead of looking internally within the HR department, it’s more prudent to focus on external factors by interviewing and surveying HR’s customers.

Of course, when you ask your customers to assess the value that they derive from your products and services interesting observations arise. The number one complaint that I have heard from many, if not almost all leaders across organisations and industries about their HR function is that:

People in HR don’t understand their business, department, function and/or people.

If you feel the same way about your HR department don’t despair – this is a natural phenomena. Often, for line managers to highlight that they’re doing a good job, they need to differentiate themselves from others. They do this by making sure their bosses believe that their department is the most difficult one to manage. And what better way to do this then to say that others don’t understand the complexities of their job and are not supporting them.

When I talk to HR leaders I normally don’t find that this is the case. In fact, I feel that most HR leaders understand the business pretty well. What I do find is that they’re unable to help leaders in the organization focus on the similarities rather than see the differences. They’re not able to convince line managers of the value of synchronized solutions, policies, approaches for different departments and/or functions across organizations that they can create.

The other misalignment HR often faces is time-related. Line managers are looking for quick solutions that will help solve problems today, whereas HR needs to have a much longer time horizon and to understand how a solution solves today’s problems whilst at the same time creates tomorrow’s capabilities.

So the bottom line challenge most HR teams face is:

How do we convince line managers to identify innovative solutions that have long term value for the organisation while at the same time solving the line managers specific issue today?

Let’s talk about how to answer this question next week.