HR – where it stops and starts

A few weeks ago the kind folks at NZlead invited me to publish a post on collaborative HR. That post can be found here. As part of the post I invited people to contribute to a list of things that HR should start and stop doing in order to keep getting better.

This post is where we ended up… No claims of it being deep or being a fully thought through model – it’s a collection of thoughts and I’d just like to thank those that contributed to it. Please put your thoughts in the comments below.

The original thought to do something this broad came from a debate at Worktech about whether HR had a future. In the picture below you’ll see I’ve made everyone else on the panel either grumpy or despondent. That’s Charles Handy‘s head by the way.


 I think it does have a future and that future looks like some of the things on the right hand side of the list below. I’m delighted that the folks at Worktech have asked me to do the keynote at their first event in Berlin where I’ll be talking about the growing inability of change management programmes to cope with…change. If you are an HR professional and you like the right hand side of this list then there are some things you can start doing today to help others change – just lead and be the change you want to see. 



Complaining about the business and that they ‘just don’t get it’

Taking accountability for bringing the business together to drive results more effectively – and understanding poor decisions made by others are often rooted in you not understanding their problems

Worrying about where your Business Partners should hand over to your Shared Service Centre etc etc

Working with the business to understand what helps the business constantly improve and focusing as much resource as you can there – irrespective of job titles

Worrying about the risks of technology

Planning to ensure your business isn’t left behind – and then crippled by the investment required to catch up

Obsessing about what people will do without you there to guide them

Observing what people do when given space, time and trust and making the most of that

Writing policies in the hope that sheets of paper will magically influence people determined to do bad things

Agreeing the core principles of how you do business and recruiting people who believe in the spirit of what you are trying to do

Worrying about who gets the credit for performance

Creating successes for people to share

Creating stats to show how commercial you are

Doing things to improve the commercial capability of your business – this will involve figures but the intent is fundamentally different

Cleaning up the mess

Helping people understand how to clean up their own mess –and to make the most of the mess. There will always be mess, but great companies  turn mistakes into progress

Viewing your role as risk minimisation

Viewing your role as one of enabling performance – and thereby minimising risk of your business being competed out of the market

Worrying about what HR do

(with the exception of this blog)

Worrying about what the business needs to do and recognising that as soon as HR stands apart from ‘the business’ it can’t be at the heart of the business

Being the keeper of secrets

Being the most open department (within legal limits…). Asking for help instead of hiding problems.

Talking about collaboration

Involving more people in decisions and only laying down the law where you really need to. People being  100% committed and with an 80% correct decision  nearly always beats 100% right but with 20% of people working against you

Reading articles on how HR should work in some imaginary world where things work smoothly

Opening the question of how HR should work at your organisation up to people all across your organisation. If the above doesn’t work for your organisation that’s ok.

Blaming Operational Managers for not executing your initiatives.

Understanding their problems and selling the importance of the initiatives. If you cannot, they are probably not as important as you think.

Attempting to put HR at the centre of the relationship between the company and its employees.

Create the right tools.  Advise, guide, coach, support, train.  Then get out of the way.

With the whole slave to Ulrich thing unless your organisation is either a) pretty darn big, or b) global.

establishing what is the right approach for your particular organisation.

7 thoughts on “HR – where it stops and starts

  1. Good, good stuff. My two favorites:

    “Viewing your role as one of enabling performance – and thereby minimising risk of your business being competed out of the market”

    “Create the right tools. Advise, guide, coach, support, train. Then get out of the way.”

    Well said and at the heart of it all.


  2. David, I love the challenges that you pose in this blog, and whilst I see the connection to HR, it could represent lots of professions. Maybe HR need to lead the change, but I think it could be said that lots of professions and groups need to engage more with others, work more collaboratively, problem solve and blur the boundaries between their disciplines.
    Maybe that’s the challenge?


    1. Absolutely, couldn’t agree more. Whilst it’s right to reflect on our challenges as a profession, we often treat them like we are a special breed! Our strengths are often those that make businesses and people special, our weaknesses tend to be quite universal. It’s an interesting challenge to identify which areas of the broader challenges we should be responsible for… Some we can influence, some we should own, some we should just own making sure that others fully own them!


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