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  January 5, 2015  

Strategic HR Weekly "Sales" Tip #8

Function versus Purpose...

I get it. I really do.

There IS a lot to "do" in the HR role. An HR person can sure keep busy, huh?

But as the focus in the HR world continues to point more towards the need to be strategic, folks in the profession will need to better understand what that actually means. And then, even more importantly, learn how to implement it in a practical, realistic, down-to-earth manner.

I recently read an article through LinkedIn about the six main "functions" of an HR department. (http://smallbusiness.chron.com/six-main-functions-human-resource-department-60693.html) Like so many others, the article had some merit, but it also gave me good material to use to illustrate an example of what needs to be done if one wants to become more strategic.

The article suggested that the six main functions of an HR department were:
Employee Relations
Compensation & Benefits
Training & Development

Are they strategic? Here's how you tell. Take each item, and ask "Why?"    Either "Why is that important?", or "Why do we do that?"

If there's an answer, then the original item is most probably either tactical or functional, but not strategic. And here's another wrinkle. There's two types of strategic - HR strategic, and Business strategic. So sometimes one of your answers to "Why?" might reach the strategic HR level, and then when you ask "Why?" again, you'll hit the P&L, which is where Business strategies sit.

Let's do an example from above:

Why do we do Recruiting (well)?
To Attract (the best) Employees. (that's HR Strategy)
Why do we want to Attract the best Employees?
To drive Business Productivity. (that's Business Strategy)

So this shows that Recruiting, as a stand alone item is NOT strategic. It's simply a tactical function that has to be done to achieve a higher purpose.

So next time you're sitting with the C-suite and have the opportunity to express HR's value to the business, instead of focusing on functions in your answer, start with a P&L (strategic) reason, and then give a couple of strategic HR support statements. If you go much lower than that down the value chain, you'll start to bore your audience with all the "functions and stuff" you'll have to do to make "the purpose" happen, and they'll glaze over big time.

Happy New Year!

Rob Blunt       View our profile on LinkedIn
President, 4-Profit-HR

phone: 866-868-5885