How to convince others to take HR seriously?

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Conversation 1:
HR: "I think we should do it this way"
Business: "How do you know? You don't even understand our business."

Conversation 2:
HR: "We bring value to your business."
Business: "Show me how?"
HR: "This is what we did last year and this is what we plan to do next year."
Business: "That's great. But, where are the metrics that point out your impact on business, productivity etc.?"
HR: "Hmm. Most of the work that we do is intangible. It's wrong to expect us to measure it."
Business: "OK??"

Such conversations lead to passionate and polarized debates between HR and business folk. I have followed and participated in many, on LinkedIn. Now, I'm not trying paint a gloomy picture; the relationship between HR and business has rapidly evolved over the last 2-3 decades and continues to improve. There are many organizations where the HR department is truly accepted as a business partner. Kudos to the executives at these organizations for enabling this to happen. But, there are an equal number of organizations where this tussle still continues. 

As a technologist working in the recruitment industry, I have worked closely with HR folk for 8 years. Through my article, I want to analyse this tussle and present a way forward. As a neutral observer, I am in a position to do this in an unbiased manner.

The Tussle
Let's get straight to the root cause of this tussle. Metrics.

Everything in business revolves around metrics. Huge amounts of data are collected and analyzed. A lot of time and research goes into developing all kinds of metrics from this data. Business executives rely heavily on these metrics to take risks, assess new opportunities, measure performance etc. They don't have the time to discuss the details of what each department under them is doing. They want metrics that link actions to business results.

Now, let's be truthful. Very few HR folk are good at developing good quality metrics. Without supporting their claims with solid metrics they hit a brick wall. They have to work doubly hard to get budget clearances, sanctions for new initiatives, space for innovation etc. 

The Way Forward
Why do HR folk generally struggle with metrics? It's because they tend to be disconnected from the core business activities of their organization. It's not their fault. Unlike marketers or software developers, they do not have the luxury to learn about the core business through their day-to-day work. Without thorough understanding of the core business it's not easy to develop metrics that link the work they do with business results.

The way forward for HR folks is to set aside some time, every day/week, to explore and learn more about the business of their organization. Yes, it does require extra work, without immediate, visible results. But, believe me, it's worth it. Think of it as a long term investment. 

Once HR folks become better at developing metrics, they won't hit a brick wall when they approach business executives for budget clearances, sanctions for new initiatives, space for innovation etc.

- Om Deshpande (Founder, Product Management & Development @ JobsXS) 

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