The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Mediocrity is Not Acceptable


“HR is the corporate function with the greatest potential — the key driver, in theory, of business performance — and also the one that most consistently under delivers.”  ~Keith Hammond’s article, “Why We Hate HR.” Fast Company, 2005

Why is it tolerated? As a business leader you have every right to expect your HR executive to be decisive, innovative and responsive.  Chief executive officers seem content to have a human resources function that is underperforming and draining resources rather than adding to the bottom line. This is simply unacceptable.

In the mid-1990’s personnel departments were very tactical in nature.  Their primary focus was to meet the needs of the employees and provide administrative services for the organization.  In general, the personnel department was seen as an administrative function requiring clerical and customer service skills.  That is no the case in the 21st century.  HR departments have evolved to be the shepherd of the culture and strategic goals of their organizations. Today, executives in high performing organizations rely on HR to drive business initiatives and ensure corporate programs are sustainable throughout the organization.

The goal of HR isn’t simply getting people in seats and administering payroll and benefits.  If that is the case in your organization, you’re missing the real value of an HR department.  Sure, your HR department can be strictly administrative, but we suggest that the risk of that is great, and the rewards you forego are plentiful. Instead, demand the same business-minded excellence you require from your other strategic functions and use human resources as your competitive advantage.

Most organizations today exist to make money in difficult economic times.  They do not exist for the purpose of making employees happy.  HR is expected to meet the profit-generating goals of the business.  In the 1990s, Drs. Robert Kaplan and David Norton published the book, The Balanced Scorecard as a strategic management concept in business.  In it, they proposed that all functions of an organization must have goals that are aligned with the common goals of the organization to be successful.  We can embrace this in HR by creating programs that drive business innovation and move the administrative function to the lowest possible level, utilizing technology and outsourcing where appropriate.  We must team with the other executives to understand their functional mission and support them through business-oriented programs that remove their barriers for success. Most importantly, we must use the concepts of the balanced scorecard to reinforce our value and alignment to the leadership team.

There are many talented HR professionals that understand the big picture of business operations.  They have MBA degrees and look to be included in the issues of the business.  HR Leaders want to analyze your balance sheet and be part of the strategic planning process.  There should be an expectation for your HR leader of presenting solutions to business issues with facts and data that will support organizational buy-in, growth and success.

Do not accept an administrative, mediocre HR function – demand alignment with your business and a strategic, participative HR Leader.  With this in mind, growth and profitability will be easier for all functional areas to achieve.

Photo: John Piercy

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