The ‘Care’takers

I love it when I hear people say that HR departments exist to ‘take care’ of humans in the office place! Many of my colleagues in other functions would retort saying that HR managers only exist to make their lives miserable & the ‘take care’ part is abysmally absent. I love that one too!

Actually, in this entire conversation, what I love the most is the mystic aura that HRM is surrounded with. There is a certain awe with which people perceive us/them; no one knows why we/they exist, what they are paid for & why organizations such ‘strategic leaders’. And human resource mystic-men (and women) are conspicuously present in every nook & corner of every important meeting & every steering committee session! The beauty of the situation does not end there…the best part is that, most HR professionals/managers* also do not know why they exist! And in their constant endeavor to figure out why, they end up being neither strategic, nor leaders…

The nomenclature actually should help make things a lot easier for people to understand the true nature of Human Resources. Literally put*, a resource is any physical or virtual entity of limited availability that needs to be consumed to obtain a benefit from it. Anything that can be used to satisfy a human need is a resource. Utility or usability is what makes a object a resource. In most cases, commercial or even non-commercial factors require resource allocation through resource management. This resource management is what HRM is all about.

Points to note in the definition:

  • Limited availability
  • Needs to be consumed
  • Satisfy a human need
  • Utility or usability

Human resources personnel are expected to work in and around the four domains above. Lets us examine how.

  • Limited availability

The organization as an organism runs on a talent pool which is limited, exhaustible at a given point in time & replenish able via value add to existing pool or injection of extra resources depending on scale of operations. There is a need for a centralized entity which can regulate such movements for an organization. This entity is the HR department. Recruitments, training & development & optimal incentivizing are important to keep the machinery running smoothly. Needless to say, it is a prerequisite for the entity managing the talent pool to have more than an inkling of the scale of operations in the business to ensure alignment to overall objectives & VMV of the organization. In my opinion, this is what makes HR a strategic business partner.

  • Needs to be consumed

Availability of good business personnel & workmen (as distinguished from workmen in Industrial dispute Act 1947)* is a non-negotiable in business. Once the same are made available, it is pertinent that the same are used in their respective domains which may not be essentially be in a direct reporting relationship with HR. Ensuring productivity is another requirement which the HR meets via the Performance management Systems which are put to place. The annual (or biannual in some cases) target setting exercise is not really a shot in the dark. Ideally, the organizations objective is duly communicated to each department, which is then communicated to each on-roll employee. This employee then evaluates his own targeted contribution to the system to complete his part of the plot.

(Imagine it as a huge glass cube with each side in a different colour. If this cube is now shattered, the like coloured pieces are then grouped together & allocated to a set of departments which are then responsible for putting the pieces of each colour together. The department further delegates regions of the 2D square to its resources/employees who work diligently to put it all together. Here the multi-hued cube is the organizational objective, putting together similar hued pieces in a group is the objective setting exercise which is then broken down into accomplishable, quantifiable actions or projects which form the targets for individuals)

A premise that emerges from this is that given a scenario where each employee meets his target, the organizations objectives must be met. However, the real world scenario is otherwise. Individuals achieve stretch targets when organizations fall abysmally short of the annual plans.

  • Satisfy a human need/ Utility or usability

The human need is the need of a virtual legal entity to run its business profitably, maximize efficiencies & productivity and meet its expectations & expectations of its stakeholders. Timely incentivizing ensures positive or even negative reinforcement of behavior. Of course behavior stems from inner values which varies among individuals (which examining the organizational fit attempts to take care of)

At the end of it, all employees strive to fulfill the need of a virtual entity called organization & get paid for it. It is important to note that workforce as a resource is both replenish able & non replenish able. Of course, strategic business partners can take a conscious call on that one.

Essentially, “HR isn’t about being a do-gooder. It’s about how do you get the best and brightest people and raise the value of the firm.” ~ Arnold Kanarick

Human resource personnel maybe humane, but so are all other functional managers; Any doubts?

* In order to be an HR manager nowadays, it ain’t essential to be a qualified HR professional. It would be an interesting statistic to note how many professionally qualified HR managers constitute HR departments.

* Source Wikipedia

*As per Industrial dispute Act 1947 “workman” means any person (including an apprentice) employed in any industry to do any manual, unskilled, skilled, technical, operational, clerical or supervisory work…………….but does not include who is employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity; or who, being employed in a supervisory capacity, draws wages exceeding one thousand six hundred rupees per mensem or exercises, either by the nature of the duties attached to the office or by reason of the powers vested in him, functions mainly of a managerial nature.


2 responses to “The ‘Care’takers

  1. Thanks for the comment AP; as you would know, it is essentially the balanced scorecard premise of cascade of organisational VMV & strategy.

  2. Illustration of the glass cube is an insightful analogy to compare working of the organization. Brings together ideas of complexity and the essential nature of division of labor inside organizations.

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