TRANSFORMING HR AND IT FROM “REBEL CHILDREN” TO DRIVERS OF BUSINESS SUCCESS
I believe that solid human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) practices are capable of driving organizational success. However, my observation and experience indicate that too many human resources and IT departments do not even come close to realizing this capability. On the contrary, both areas are often seen internally as obstacles to individual and organizational success that divert the scarce resources of the areas that do the “real” work.
My opinion is that the executives of the organization allow mediocre performance by not challenging HR and IT to live up to their respective potential. Actively and passively, intentionally and unintentionally, consciously and unconsciously, allow behaviors and results that refuse to accept from other functional areas. Although others, including human resources and IT professionals and academics, can certainly “claim” a part of the blame, the main decision makers are those who have consistently tolerated behavior and results that are well below the brand.
I can argue that HR personally touches each individual in the organization. As a result, the human resources function is in a unique position to direct employee performance towards the objectives of the organization. But how often does this happen? Instead, we see, experience and / or read about evidence of poor or mediocre performance, such as dysfunctional turnover, low morale, low productivity, dissatisfied customers, disconnected employees, inability to achieve desired goals and results, poorly combined talents and requirements for work, employment-related demands, dysfunctional behaviors and managers who spend an excessive amount of time resolving conflicts. With “results” like these, is it surprising that HR is viewed with disdain by many?
Similarly, I can argue that the work done by IT departments can affect or affect all areas of an organization. Given the potential of technology to increase productivity and profitability by making processes and systems more effective and efficient, IT seems a logical choice when looking for ways to achieve the organization’s objectives. However, one sees the same type of complaints from CIOs as one of the human resources executives, that is, decision makers at all levels do not take us seriously, they do not understand the value we can bring to the organization, they see us as Obstacles instead of valuable facilitators, they are missing the ship by excluding us from important decisions, especially at strategic levels. Why the strong discrepancy between the promise and the reality of HR and IT contributions to the success of the organization?
The analogy that comes to mind is that of young rebels whose inability to fulfill their potential begins with the lack of control or guidance of their parents, or their lack. This lack of direction and development allows young people to waste their talents and acquire bad habits. Perhaps the expectations were not clarified or set too low. Perhaps there were no consequences for aberrant behavior or the parents found too many problems to confront and correct the bad behaviors, or they did not know how to address them. Perhaps the behaviors were explained or otherwise tolerated. Perhaps the parents were too busy to pay attention to the children or thought it was someone else’s job, for example, teachers at school, to provide boundaries and discipline. Perhaps it was easier for them to raise their hands and recognize defeat, label children as “in good spirits,” for example, or say, “This is how they are” than to insist on alternative productive behaviors. Or maybe there was some guidance on behavior, but because it was not later reinforced or rewarded, the children returned to the old habits. Returning someone to the same environment that gave rise to and supported the bad behavior condemns the young rebels to failure. Why is it so surprising, then, that young rebels grow up and become rebel adults?
Similarly, why are people surprised to discover that HR and IT are behaving like rebellious children, given that they have essentially been “raised” in that way? Consider whether any of these alternative ways of managing or viewing HR and IT sounds familiar: treated as second-class citizens and not as valuable contributors; assigned very narrow areas of responsibility (for example, compliance and administration) instead of allowing them to develop their respective talents; freed from accountability instead of being required to prove their respective value; seen and treated as cost centers rather than as investments in business success; left to their own devices instead of having clear expectations of performance; excluded from discussions and business strategy decisions instead of seeking creativity and innovation.
For the same reasons that talented children go astray, human resources and IT departments are not living up to their potential. Here are some suggestions of ways in which executives can stop allowing mediocre HR and IT performance and begin to challenge these areas to fulfill their respective potential as drivers of business success:
- Provide effective guidance, direction and support from the executive level.
- Establish and communicate clear expectations for human resources and IT professionals
- Identify clear and measurable images of “success”
- Provide the necessary tools to obtain successful results.
- Hold HR and IT responsible for achieving the established results
- Provide and enforce consequences for noncompliance
- Redefine the Human Resources and IT roles to highlight their contributions to organizational success
The last point is particularly important. Just as young rebels are doomed to fail unless their environment changes to support desired behaviors and outcomes, HR and IT efforts would also fail if nothing else changed, for example, the business environment, the attitudes of executives, expectations about their performance. There must be responsibility on all sides. Executives must relate differently to HR and IT than before, that is, redefine the relationship and learn to interact differently. Just when the parents of the young rebels raised their hands in a self-proclaimed defeat, too many executives have renounced HR and IT without a fight, essentially providing those areas with a free pass or “permission” to be rebellious and not accountable.
What actions will you take today to stop these capricious behaviors in your organization and support business success?