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Aug 7, 2013

I recently had a nice chat with a colleague from my banking days.

She was in Marketing and I was in HR. We discovered we both have moved into performance improvement and had a delightful conversation.

She and her business partner have a very impressive process that investigates where there is waste and where there are opportunities in the business, that may otherwise be obscured by hierarchical relationships. The results of the investigation is a colorful, visual map that clearly shows where the organization can focus their time and resources for maximum return.

Workplace issues are people driven

The premise behind this process is that the “issues” that arise that cause waste or service problems are people driven, so the people need to be the ones to identify and resolve. It is a good methodology for maximizing the energy of the workforce, and an outstanding way to engage people.

They have been networking with HR leaders as potential clients, but are hearing, “HR doesn’t do that – you need to talk about that with Operations.

Huh? Really?

A process that could drive the bottom line because it clearly and convincingly illustrates where and how to focus attention for better performance isn’t HR?

HR wants to be strategic. How much more strategic can an overhead department be than to influence better performance and higher productivity in the workforce. Would Operations not welcome that expertise and help, given the heavy workload they generally carry? Wouldn’t this position HR as adding value?

HR: “the “people part of the business”

But the business doesn’t want us messing around in their workspace (we hear). Of course not, when they think about HR as policies they can’t violate, why they can’t fire a low performer, and how much the cost of this “overhead” is impacting their profitability.

HR has hidden too long under compliance, and it’s time to change the rules of the game to get folks engaged and productive. I’m not saying it’s easy because we also have to hold down the fort on the traditional HR work, but at the same time step up the game in measuring and improving performance.

HR is the “people part of the business.” Indeed, that includes all of the traditional areas of responsibility, but with a business focus – ensuring the most productive and committed workforce possible. Yes, managers motivate their employees, but HR is a resource, a mentor, a coach, a knowledge base and a partner.

Tuning in to individual performance

What happens when the consultant gets hold of Operations and gets them interested in a product, circumventing HR? HR is out of the picture, and has just allowed a third party to lead the “people part of the business.” Then the consultant brings in the new process or program without organizational due diligence to ensure that what is being introduced aligns with the strategy, the culture and the programs.

I advocate that HR start tuning in to performance at the individual, team and organizational level and learn as much about human performance as possible. Find a willing operational partner, and work together to plan, implement and measure improved performance.

This is a huge opportunity!

This originally appeared on the ….@ the intersection of learning & performance blog.

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