HR, but why?

Lately I had the good fortune to

  • Work closely with an HR team, applying agile principles both to its function and to its organization.
  • Get involved in the Agile-HR-Manifesto.
  • Run an Agile-HR workshop.

And the biggest question I’m facing is — what is the purpose of HR?

You see, I believe you can’t be effective in your job if you don’t understand what’s your purpose…

Is the purpose to Hire/Fire/Pay? is it to ensure employee happiness?

I believe the answer is deeper…

Let’s start.

HR’s purpose in a nutshell

I assume any organization wants to be Effective.

To be effective you have to have

  • a Purpose, what change do you want to make in the world?
  • The way to get there, or Execution powers

…and they have to be Aligned.

Hence it’s HR’s role to

  • Help the organization own a clear and strong purpose.
  • Help maximize the organization’s execution power
  • Maximize their alignment

A bit about purpose…

To be effective, you have to understand what effect you search, what impact you want to have on the world

Effective people know what they want.

Effective organizations have a clear vision as well.

  • Google: Provide access to the world’s information in one click.
  • Facebook: Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected
  • Heineken: Delight consumers, day in day out, with perfect cider and beer brand experiences!
  • IBM: “Doesn’t have a clear mission statement”.

You can read more about the importance of a purpose In this article from Forbes.

BTW, don’t confuse purpose with values, values are there to support your purpose, not the other way around!

About execution powers…

Once you have a purpose, you need the means to get there.

If your purpose is to get someplace, you may need a transportation — Feet, Bike, Car, Horse, Plane something you can use to get there.

Someone/ something that has enough power to carry you, and is willing/ happy to go the same way.

An airplane is useless if the place you want to get to has no airport.

Feet are useless if it is not walking distance

A horse should be willing or persuaded to carry you, and will be much happier to carry you if you want to go to a water source than to the middle of the desert.

Hence, if your organization needs people in order to move, it needs the people who are capable to take you where you want to go and are motivated to do so.

But, even if your people have great execution powers, they may still either:

  • Lack the ability to execute what you need. (you have great software developers, but need sales)
  • Lack the will to execute your vision, or even not understand or misunderstand (which may be worst) your vision.

Hence alignment is crucial!

About alignment…

Alignment is the synchronization between your vision and your execution power, validating they are as close as possible to each other.

  • Having your team understand and identify with your vision
  • Having your team work in the direction of your vision

If you want to get to a source of water, your best horse would be a thirsty one.

Hence once you have a goal, a common set of supporting values would be great!

When there is no clear purpose…

When you don’t have a purpose, you will probably not get there.

When the purpose is not clear, your horses go where they want.

With no clear purpose, there is no good execution power.

To be a good car-engine, the engine has to fit the car’s purpose.

A race-car’s engine will burn-out when installed in a city car, while a city-car’s engine will not help win a car-race.

Hence, whether your engine is good or not (or your team is good or not) depends on your car’s (or company’s) purpose.

When you have no matching execution powers…

In case all you have is a horse, better adjust your destination to somewhere the horse can get to (not too far away), and won’t resist going to (preferably even be happy to get there).

A vision is not just a dream, but a realistic dream.

  • If your people are missing knowledge — help them learn.
  • If they are missing time — either add more people or adjust your goal.

A horse under stress may resist, and later rebel or collapse, employees are not that different…

HR’s role

HR (I claim :-) is the glue between the vision and the execution power. As such it should:

  • Help the leaders evolve to find a clear and strong vision.
  • Insist the vision fits the organization’s execution power and direction (or make sure you have a plan how to fit them)
  • Make the vision clear on all levels (rational & emotional) to the employees.
  • Help employees evolve (if they want to) to better serve the vision.

So, in my opinion, HR’s main role is not to make employees happy, unless they believe happy employees have a better execution power.

Recruitment, layoff, salaries, trainings etc. Are not HR’s purpose, but mere tools that may serve the purpose!

Once you are focused on your purpose, let’s talk about how to get there. (perhaps next post?)

Till nextime!

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