Are HR programs killing HR?

Are HR programs killing HR?

As a Human Resources leader, do you ever wonder what your CEO and executive team are wondering regarding HR? Guess what, they may be dreading your next HR program. As a group, HR is often guilty of spending too much time developing and over-engineering programs that end up being ineffective and bureaucratic burdens on the business. So, the next time you consider an HR program, ask yourself:  Does this initiative help our leaders better manage their employees, result in increased employee engagement, and have real business impact?

Let’s look at an example: A company decides to implement a new performance management system. HR staffers spend months developing the process and the content of the review. They bring in consultants and hold focus groups. When it comes time to implement the system, they hold a one-hour training class, declare the project complete, and then move onto the next HR program. Ninety percent of the time is spent on process development and 10 percent is spent on helping leaders manage their people and effectively use the system.     

How does that lead to enhanced employee engagement?  It doesn’t. HR needs to flip the equation and spend less time developing programs and more time coaching leaders to ensure that they are equipped to maximize the organization’s talent. This holds true for developing a performance management system, a career coaching program, a talent management approach, succession planning, etc.  Consultants will tell you that this won’t work, but they like creating complex programs that they get paid to explain.

Keep the focus of HR on helping managers lead

Employees typically are happy in their jobs because they have a high regard for their managers, not because of HR programs. Ask a highly engaged employee, “Are you engaged because of an HR program, or because your manager inspires you?” So then why does HR spend so much time developing systems and programs?  

Programs, initiatives, and systems don’t manage and lead people – people do. So, as an HR professional, resist the temptation by letting process be your main driver. Set up the basics and focus on helping your managers’ capabilities for leading. The questions should always be asked: Are my HR activities enhancing or inhibiting employee engagement? Are my systems and processes easy to understand? Are leaders spending too much time in processes? How much time am I spending coaching leaders?

Don’t be an expert in bureaucracy

HR professionals should try to work themselves out of a job by transferring as much knowledge as possible to the business leaders. Striving to be a subject matter expert in talent management, employee engagement, and career management should be the goal. Don’t be a subject matter expert in complex internal HR processes. Another term for that is bureaucracy expert.  

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