Thursday, July 10, 2014

Should an HR have prior cross functional experience

For a quite long time, I have been thinking on this subject matter. Recently I had a word with one of my friend and an ex-colleague who joined a start up and a mid sized engineering company. During selection process, he had been informed that there is no Human Resources Department and finance look into joining formalities and management handles human resources part including policy formulation. On asking, they clarified that they have experienced human resources department and it is not working. There were certain reasons. Few of them were:
1. Human Resources Department cannot remain independent. They get influenced and become part of the office politics.
2. Human Resources Department does not facilitate in the business.
3. Human Resources Department does not understand requirement of the organisation. They try to implement the policy and often creates hurdle in the decision making.
4. Human Resources Department does not think as a strategic business unit.
So these were the few reasons they cited. Apart from this a non scientific, old fashioned organisation still treat Human Resources as a non required and a cost eating function (and yes, there is still secondary treatment to non revenue function in many organisations). The above example put following questions before us:
1. Has Human Resources failed as a department?
2. Do they not understand business need?
3. Is it because they do not have functional experience? (in most of the cases)
There are many more questions to be answered and many more introspections are required. I think the most burning question is, Should we have Human Resources department with people having prior functional experience. My answer is both yes and no.
Now, Human Resources professional as well as organisation both need to understand that HR is not just an operational department like payroll processing, managing attendance, policing, looking after administrative issue and so on. Now, Human Resources department is a scientific department. With change in the business, business model, environment, change in the work force, Human Resources also need to act like as a CEO of the organisation. They need to handle role like analysing, understanding and strategizing the whole function. Another problem is, our B school teach too much theory and the graduates from even so called top B schools are fresher with no real business experience. They learn in the class room and attempt to formulate policy and implement in real business scenario. This is another mistake. I feel before moving to Human Resources function directly, an individual should spend at least a month in each key department and understand how they work. Also when one switch an organisation, instead of implementing HR practices of their previous organisation, they should first spend considerable amount of time in understanding their new organisation and how they function, how is its work force and then only they should think about any changes or implementing policy.
I remember few years back, how a CHRO had to leave his job within 6 months of joining. The management found him not as per their expectations and he could not win heart of either employee or his own department. In my observation, his gross mistake was dumping policies and practices of his previous organisation without studying the current one.
Recently, in an HR forum too, I had a not so good experience with a human resources "professional". He wanted to implement PMS in his organisation and he was asking for the format from members. I had to stop him and advise him to first study the organisation, design the form on the basis of his organisation's need and then share with members for their input. He got so angry on this that he sent me a mail showing his anger. He felt I have been stopping others to "help" him. I think we have many such "HR" professionals believing in copy paste work. Believe, such things do not make us an HR professional.
An HR professional should always work in different functional department and understand how they help in the growth of the organisation. They must study their working pattern in deep. They should have regular conversation with different department as well as with management. This will surely help them to diversify their own role and their department. It is good if a CHRO or HR professionals have prior work experience. If not, at least they should spend time to work in different function to understand it need and to act as a strategic business unit of the organisation.
I Would like to understand your view on this. Please comment

 Originally created and posted by me in my linkedin blog

Govind
Mumbai
July 10, 2014

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