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September 25, 2012
The HR Function Won't Function Without You
Over seven years ago, I decided to reinvent my career and embark on a future in HR. I thought erroneously, “How much harder can this be than advertising?” As it happens, it can be pretty darn hard. One of the things I’ve learned is this: even though the focus of HR is on people and talent, oftentimes the biggest obstacle to the function’s effectiveness can be people themselves.

Employees and senior leaders struggle with the HR discipline to the point of negative commentary, lack of interaction, etc. There’s a false perception that HR is a team that “only” interviews, sets dress policies, plans company parties, issues offer letters, and fires people. Some see us as administrators — not strategic thinkers, maintaining what we need to keep some sort of factory running vs. developing and evolving an organization’s talent and environment. Sadly, some perceive HR to be a barrier to a company’s progress rather than a propeller.

The irony is that those who foster these perceptions can be the same people stifling the strategic capabilities of their HR function. Having been on the “other side” of the HR fence, to those naysayers I urge you: rethink it. Putting these negative, stale perceptions aside will empower your HR function to elevate its efforts to a more strategic and effective level for business. The first step is simply alignment: senior leaders and employees alike must act as partners with HR in order for the discipline to be successful.
In many marketing cases, the goal with clients is to be a valued business partner, not a service provider. HR needs to be thought of in the same light, especially when it will involve the organization’s most important asset, talent. Collaboration, in its truest sense of the word, is critical to the effectiveness of the HR function: we can’t do our jobs effectively without your partnership and support.

HR needs to spend more time driving results; this can only happen when you value the function as a partner versus a service. 
  • Don’t view HR as police. If an employee is wearing a halter top and that’s not company policy, don’t call us. Tell that employee to go home and change, or alert that person’s manager to address the issue. If minor policy violations become larger issues that consistently affect performance or your environment, HR will get involved to assist in resolution; otherwise, as a manager, take these smaller matters into your own hands. If you want to make changes to better your office environment (coffee selection and toilet paper ply tend to be historical bones of contention), create a task force with like-minded employees to drive change.
  • Don’t view HR as administrators. There is a great deal of administration within the HR function but areas can and should be streamlined, not only by HR, but with your help, too. If you have an interview scheduled, keep the scheduled date or delegate to another employee. Scheduling can take up to 70% of a recruiter’s day, if a team is insensitive to scheduling assignments. It’s best a recruiter spend the majority of her time identifying top talent vs. battling scheduling conflicts.
  • Don’t assume “that’s not my job.” Training and recruiting — those are HR responsibilities, right? Wrong. Training and recruiting must be constant and consistent across any company. If you know top talent, tell your recruiting team (even if you don’t have openings on your team). If you have training opportunities, take advantage of them — whether it is for yourself or your team.
  • Teach HR about your business. The more information we have, the better equipped we are to assist in identifying and developing key talent, as well as overarching strategies for the company as a whole. Clear job descriptions, informational briefings, invites to status meetings, and new business updates are all components critical to effective HR practices and strategic development.
  • Keep career development top of mind. From both manager and employee standpoints alike, career development is critical, especially in an organization where people are the greatest asset (which is true of most organizations). It’s of such importance at MEC that we’ve developed an initiative that allocates one HR representative to each employee for the specific purpose of discussing career satisfaction and development. The program encourages employees to share, listen, learn, and grow; it also provides HR with information critical to evolving programs as our talent needs evolve.
The most critical points of all:
  • Support HR initiatives and don’t think you’re the exception to the rule. Your lack of understanding, support, and compliance for company policies and initiatives will kill them, plain and simple. If you think you’re too busy to provide candidate feedback, even though the interviewing process requires it, make the time. If your company has defined what it means to be a leader, act on those values daily to not only develop yourself, but others around you.
If you feel there is little to no progress from your HR discipline, take a deeper dive: Is the reason connected to the team itself or a lack of support and partnership from you and others in your organization?

Your HR team can’t accomplish it alone: partner with them and make great things happen.

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Christine Stack joined the media agency MEC in 2011 as Senior Partner, Director-Talent Acquisition; in that role, she is responsible for the creation, development, and delivery of strategies to attract and retain senior-level talent at the agency across North America. She is also a key member of MEC’s Talent executive committee. 
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