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Do you think HR could ever be elegant?

Posted on: May 28, 2008

Elegance and HR?

Mmm, that sounds like asking me to cook a souffle.

Today, two things happened today.  First, someone on LinkedIn asked why policy and procedures are important in HR.  As he had asked twice before, I took him to be a student who was trying to figure out how to structure an essay and decided to help him out on what is after all an not well articulated topic.

Then, I had dealings with an HR Department, and I despaire.  I had to put my CV through them on their form.   This form is well over 10 pages long and with all the additional information they want, it could well stretch to 20 pages.  It was in Word, not a wiki, so very difficult to manage, and eventually, approaching exhaustion, I printed it out.  I have an HP printer (another sad story) and the pages tend to shoot up all over the office.  Guess what, they weren’t numbered!!  Deary me – what is it with HR?

So, what did I say to the ‘student’?  I suggested his question is what policy and procedures do we need?

Documents I expect to see in a well-run HR office

1. Strategy (a detailed file with a short synopsis for circulation)

  • The nature of our industry
    • How demand for labor arises in the firm and what moderates demand – technology, short term volatility, etc.
    • The supply of labor in our industry (occupational structures & training)
  • Our firm’s competitive position
    • Current and desired
    • Our firm’s strategy for reaching its desired position
  • HR strategy
    • Desired internal labor market strategy and corresponding relationship with the external labor market
    • Specific features that result: training, supervision style, etc.
    • Include leadership and consultation style that we need and why (see 4)

2. The soft behaviors essential to be competitive in our business (detailed trail of the research and analysis and short engaging persuasive summary for distribution)

  • Talk to all stakeholders about their tacit knowledge
  • Drill down to the link between the behavior they espouse and the link to competitiveness in this industry
  • Tell people what behaviors are required in what situations and why

3. The policy and procedures manual

  • The purpose of a policy and procedures manual is to reduce administration.
  • Is it clear to anyone at a glance what they have to do?
    • Test all p&p with the most impatient and the most analytical.
    • Anything debatable does not belong here.
  • Some people have a gift for simplicity and elegance.  Ask them to review the P&P.

4. Methods of adjudication

  • An organization is an arena of conflict and bargaining.  Ultimately the test of HR is the quality of its refereeing.
  • Define the decision making processes in the organization and processes of consultation required for each decision.
  • Ensure that everyone is able to argue a position vigorously and robustly without recrimination, and that everyone affected by a decision has an equal opportunity to do so.
  • Ultimately the added margin that our people bring to the firm comes from these moments.  Because they can be contentious, we need to manage them well.

5. Review of HR Strategy, Policy and Procedures (a schedule and last year’s file)

  • When is HR Strategy reviewed and in conjunction with what other review processes?
  • When is HR implementation reviewed and how?
  • How can any  member of the organization prompt a review?

Keep it thorough but simple

Forms that are over 10 pages long without page numbers just don’t meet the simplicity principle.  Sorry!

I have worked in a place which had a standard contract for all employees (couple of blanks to fill in).  We had one form to fill in each year (it did require 6 copies oddly).  Our annual report went via the department/division/organization report.

As a general rule the organization ran on five principles:

a) Put your proposal in writing before we discuss it.

b) Confine yourself to one side including the routing (we ask A to make a decision for onward submission to B to . . .).

c) Brief everyone prior to the meeting. At the meeting we will discuss the proposal together and decide whether to back you or not.

d) If you cannot speak succinctly to your paper at the meeting and answer questions crisply, we will ask to withdraw your proposal.  By all means, come back when you have your thoughts together.

e) No decision is ever, ever made retrospectively.

What a simple life.  Other organizations may need another list of principles to match their organization.  But they can be simple. Indeed they should be simple and they will be simple if you have done the background work on what you do and why!

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1 Response to "Do you think HR could ever be elegant?"

[…] curious habit HR has of over-complicating everything yet getting to grips with […]

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