Taking Risks, or Why HR Needs to Stop Acting Like Everyone’s Mom

You know what I really like about Sales departments in most organizations?

They try, or do, almost anything, once, to try and increase sales for your organization. They are willing to take chances, to tinker, to experiment, and the organization is fine with it. Hell, most organizations expect Sales to do stupid stuff every now and again.

Marketing is the same way. If there is a dumb idea out there, someone in Marketing is bound to come up with it and give it try. Why not? It might actually work.

Why is HR always about risk avoidance?

Operations? Same thing. When I was at Applebee’s, about once a year some Operations person would say “Hey, we should do Breakfast!” You mean America’s beer and burger place doing eggs and bacon? Sure, why not? Then after one week of trying a “Sunday Brunch” they’d say, “That’s dumb – let’s not do that.” But they tried it.

HR? Not so much.

Somehow, HR became our organization’s Mom. I’m not sure how your Mom is, but most Moms do whatever they can to keep their kids out of risk. I called this “Bubble Boy” when my boys were little and my wife would do everything possible to keep them out of harm’s way. I’m sure, if it would have been possible, she would have found a way to put a bubble wrap around our boys to keep them safe.

That’s not necessarily bad, right? Ultimately, we want to keep our kids safe – out of harm’s way. That is the role of Mom.

HR is not Mom.

Learning to take calculated risks

That really is our (HR’s) major affliction. We are trying to be “Mom” when no one in our organization, including the C-suite, is asking us to be “Mom.”

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Most HR shops run like they are trying to eliminate 100 percent of the organization’s risk. The problem is, it’s not HR’s role to eliminate risk from the organization. HR can advise about risk – “Hey, you might not want to do that, it could get us into some hot water, but if you do, here’s how I can help” – but it shouldn’t be spending large amounts of time figuring out how to eliminate risk.

That’s why you have lawyers and legal counsel. Every company I know – even ones with 25 employees – have legal counsel. OK, maybe not on site, but they can make a call.

Think about it for a minute: no other part of your organization spends time trying to eliminate risk. Instead, they spend time trying to figure out what risks they should be taking to move the organization forward. Some of those risks won’t work. Some of those risks will work so well it will transform the organization.

We need them to take risks. Taking risks — calculated risks — is what drives innovation, drives increased revenues, and drives the long term health of our organizations. Risk avoidance is an ill HR can cure.

HR needs to take risks. Our organizations require this.

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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