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Chris - Manager's Sandbox


Great post, and thanks for the shout-out! Don't get me wrong - administration is still a huge part of what organizations need. I do think, though, that a lot of that stuff can be outsourced (payroll, for example). To touch on some of your other bullets:

- Keeping manager's out of trouble w/ employees: Coaching is an essential HR function, no doubt about it. But this ties back in to what I said in "Why this is an important moment for HR." You need to coach managers to help drive behaviors that support the business.

- Union management: Again, essential function. I think if HR did a better job, we might not need unions in the first place. That aside, though, the business has a need for employees who behave a certain way, and that way should support the business. The union is just another middle man (in addition to HR) to working with employees to get those behaviors

What I do love, though, is your call for honesty. That shouldn't be reserved for HR roles - you should always be fully upfront with candidates about what they're getting into. It's the only real way to avoid buyers remorse.

Again, great post. Thanks Steve!

- Chris

Chris Young - Maximize Possibility


Great post as always...

Let me level with you... I am not a fan of HR. Not a fan at all. As an OD consultant, I find that HR is often (not always) the guard of the status quo.

I want to be fair... You stated it well in your post...

"Be honest. HR is an evolutionary concept under which a bunch of specialties have been lumped. You've got your benefits folks, OD mavens, union specialists, compensation number crunchers, employee communication geniuses, recruiters, training & development leaders, designers, instructors..."

Well stated, my friend... Sounds like a job description from "Mission Impossible".

That said... I think too much has happened for too long. HR has a brand. That brand is not known for innovation. That brand is known more for checking boxes for completion of a training program rather than helping obtain and measuring actual results.

What should be done with HR? Keep HR what HR has been always about... It is high time to create a separate "Talent Maximization" (Talent Management) position that reports directly to the CEO. Move training and development to Talent Management. Allow HR to do the "People Accounting" and negotiating with unions.

From time to time, I have seen positions where they are inherently set up to fail. Why? Because too much is expected from one person for a job to be successful. In other words, there are jobs where from the onset, failure is the outcome.

I am not a "basher" of HR. HR performs invaluable functions... But I strongly believe it is time to stop expecting EVERYTHING people-related from HR.

For the record, I have observed a few HR departments pull it off - Talent Management AND HR - (At the Fortune 100 level). But for all of the HR departments I have observed, I can count only a handful who have pulled it off with some degree of success...

With rare expection, HR is incapable of being the strategic talent maximization partner it is inherently failed to be.

That is my "two cents"...

Keep rockin' Steve!

Michelle Malay Carter

Hi Steve,

Yes, your post gets to the heart of a very sticky matter, and the four box grid could apply to many vague titles and functions.

If I might add to this line of thinking, a work levels model allows for a universal way of qualifying all roles according to complexity level just like temperature allows for a universal way of measuring heat. It doesn't matter if it's an orange, a rock, helium or a bucket of sea water - you can measure and compare the temperature of any. For more on work levels, you can look here: http://www.missionmindedmanagement.com/not-all-work-is-created-equal-exploring-work-levels-1-through-4

Thanks for the point to a useful model that I might want to expand upon over at MMM.


Michelle Malay Carter

Scott McArthur

One of the issues with HR is that not only is what you describe true but the profession itself does not really get where it adds value. I belive this is in part down to the education system. How on earth for example can an HR professional not be a qualified psychologist? Rather, many HR qualifications focus on law and reward (amongst other things). Noble pursutes perhaps but surely as mathematics is to physics - psychology is to HR? Get this right and we will have a role in business every time.

Steve Roesler


I'm dealing with a global company who has begun using that approach and it is working quite well.

At least three reasons thus far:

1. People are operating discreetly in their areas of expertise and enthusiasm.

2. As a result of 1, they are getting even better at what they do.

3. Everyone in the company knows exactly where to go for what kinds of services. The job titles are crystal clear and not lumped under a fuzzy umbrella.

Keep writing. . .

Steve Roesler

Chris at Manager's Sandbox,

If we can more HR people with coaching expertise to help managers do what managers ought to be doing, that would be one small step for man and one giant step for mankind.

Did someone else already say that? :-)

Steve Roesler


As always you've given us another reference and resource. Thanks for that.

Steve Roesler

Hi, Scott,

Glad you took time to add an almost-never-discussed issue: educational background.

The driving force in this issue is most likely how each organization views the role and value of HR. If it's viewed as an administrative watchdog, then people with equivalent background will be hired. When it's seen as a potential force for development and management performance, we should (theoretically) see the kind of credentials that you suggest.

In the meantime, if I were keen on a long-term career in HR and really wanted to make a difference I would personally pursue advanced education in human and organizational behavior.

Part of this equation comes down to personal responsibility. If one wants to be influential in larger ways, then take the initiative that will lead to the desired results.

With thanks, Scott.

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