The Trick to a Great HR Department: Act Small – Even If You’re Really Big

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Jan 22, 2014

Do you know why most restaurants fail? They don’t do anything really, really well.

There are a number of new burger chains popping up all over the country who are doing great. These chains have decided to have only a few menu items, but do each of those items better than anywhere else.

You can get a burger, fries, shake and a soda. That’s it. Small, focused, the best you’ll ever taste – each item.

I work with a lot of big companies, and the hiring managers love me! You know why?

What small guys do that the big guys don’t

I’m small (OK, I walked into that one!). My company is small. When you’re small you do a number of things that most big companies don’t do. Here’s a short list:

  • You take full responsibility (no one else around to blame);
  • You’re responsive to everything (or you go out of business);
  • You’re in the know about what needs to be done;
  • You say “Yes” to almost everything;
  • You treat the business like it’s your own.

I meet with a lot of HR executives who work for big companies, and almost 100 percent of them have the same issue: They feel like their department doesn’t have the credibility and influence it should.

They are concerned that their department’s reputation is that of a roadblock and not of a valued partner. They don’t know how to get the organization to view them differently.

It’s really easy.

You gotta act like you’re small – even if you’re not

Big HR departments have to act like they are small HR departments. While there is a business necessity to have specialists in large HR shops, everyone must act like they are a generalist. Leaders have to make sure that it’s known that lack of response, lack of solutions, lack taking full responsibility to ensure someone gets the answer they need will not be tolerated, at any level, within their HR shop.

Hiring managers, executives, individual contributors, etc. only want to hear one thing when they call HR – “Yes, we’ll take care of it, right now,”  not an endless loop of “we can’t do it, I’m not the person, I’ll try and find out, I don’t know, call such and such, etc.

Small shops don’t have this luxury. If they say these things, they’ll be out of job because they wouldn’t be needed.

The key to great HR in a big HR shop is to act small, yet most big HR shops work really, really hard on trying to be big.

Try to do everything, and you do nothing really well

When you act small you get very good at pinpointing what is really important and getting that accomplished. You do this because you just can’t do everything because you don’t have the resources.

By doing a few things really, really well, your organization knows what they can count on you to deliver. Large HR shops try to do everything, and usually do it all really average, or below average. They are simply trying to do too much.

Don’t get bigger, get smaller – smaller on your focus, smaller on your deliverables, smaller on your accomplishments, but make those things world-class.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.