When HR becomes an Obstacle

There is no doubt that Human Resources Management and its organizational value are gaining significant momentum in the Middle East. It is almost impossible to look into the agenda of any Government and not see a major highlight on Capacity Building and Development of the National Workforce. This awareness is even more noticeable in the industries of the Private Sector.

Still, taking a closer look at the status of HR thinking and practice in many Businesses, one can notice a wide margin for improvement. One of the major areas in this respect is the absence of robust support to the HR Function in general. It continues to be obvious that the field of HR Management remains fresh and HR not a strongly positioned Function. In some cases this fact is due to absence of key tools and systems that enable this Organizational Function to do its job well. It also applies that Organizational Cultures are still not very much tolerant of Institutionalization. Many Line Managers actually prefer to fall back into their comfort zones of handling their teams according to personal non systems-based standards.

However, what worries me most is something that I am repeatedly coming across, namely the Capabilities of HR Teams themselves. Looking around one can notice that HR positions in many Businesses – some of which are prominent market players – continue to be staffed based on the experience of the individual less than on both experience and specialization; even more alarming is that many of those positions host employees (supposedly HR employees) that are either not-needed/ wanted by the Company, and who have little or no comprehension of the HR Profession at all. In other words, instead of laying not needed/wanted staff off, some companies end up re-assigning them to the HR Department. Mind you that this trend exists at both staff and managerial levels inside HR Functions.

The danger in this persevering tendency lies not only in tarnishing the reputation of the HR Function due to mal practice of un-experienced or unknowledgeable HR professionals, which has already happened in many cases that I know of. Rather, the real danger comes from the negative impact that this malpractice of HR Management might – and will – have on Business Performance. This is when HR becomes and Obstacle.
You see, the HR Function has a Strategic Support role. Its responsibility at the end of the day is to ensure that the Company has the right capable talent to drive business performance within a Performance-conducive environment. In other words, HR Functions are drivers and facilitators of Business Performance. Yet, when such a critically important Function is not handled by proficient and profoundly experienced Professionals, there is a large chance that it will shift from being a facilitator into becoming an obstacle to the Business; and this is where the Organization becomes highly exposed.

When the HR Function becomes perceived as the Police Department of the company, or when it wins the reputation that it is the eyes and ears of the Top Management, or when it starts acting as a halting force against growth by consistently arguing – many times for the sake of arguing – about line functions’ requests for new hires, or for training, or for enhancement of workplace environment, this is when HR becomes an obstacle.
The relevance of this reasoning is in many cases associated with the profile of the HR Team in the Company. The tendency is that, the more the HR Team is specialized and profoundly experienced, the more the probability that the HR Function plays a business facilitator role. Still, the more the HR Team is not specialized and its experience – in the field – is mediocre, the more the probability that the HR Function will become an obstacle; something that this Function was never conceived to be.