Today, I literally saw the blind leading the blind.
I was taking some time to "smell the roses" listening to some chilled out music while I thought over my presentation for the HRINZ special interest group - truly at that moment all was right in the world.
I had just hit the sweet spot in my journey (you know the moment where the music you are listening to almost becomes the sound track to your life, and the things that seem like everyday drudgery around you become almost orchestrated and fantastical) when I saw the most inspirational sight. There was a visually impaired women with a guide dog, with the hand of a visually impaired man placed gently upon her shoulder, walking down the street.
It really got me thinking about how this may not have been a possibility even 50 years ago - I mean really, the old saying came from somewhere right?
So, how was it possible now? The answer was pretty simple, it was not really the blind leading the blind, rather the guide dog leading the blind (plural).
Of course, given that I was in the how can we do things better head space, I drew the analogy that, give the person the right tool, and you can get some pretty spectacular results that can challenge assumptions and inherent biases.
So as a starting point, and an introduction to me, I just need to let you all know that I do not believe in "Tea and Tissue" HR. You know the role, where the HR person is predominately the facilitator between employee and employer. This sort of situation means that HR never actually enable the manager to undertake the people management role of their job, and it is my opinion that this unintentionally creates a division between employee and employer.
Do you know what I mean? Maybe the following conversation might help:
Employee - "HR lady, my manager has declined my leave application, and I need to go and see my sick grandmother, please help"
HR person - "That is terrible, sit down and tell me all about your grandmother, you must be in pain..."
HR person to Manager - "Why did you decline employee's leave request, their grandmother is very sick, and it seems a little mean to not let them go see her ... it is not what a good employer would do!"
Manager - "Oh, I didn't know, the employee did not tell me why they wanted leave, of course they can go see their grandmother - I am not a bad manager after all, and I do care about my staff"
HR Person to employee - "All sorted, I spoke to the manager, and they have approved your leave - I hope your grandmother gets better" (cue superhero music...).
OK, I admit it is a little tongue and cheek, but you get the gist.
I have to be honest, I was this sort of HR person, back in the olden days - and I have to admit, it is a pretty powerful feeling :-) You come home exhausted day after day, but pat yourself on the back for all the conflict you resolved. Slowly but surely you start to look at the managers you are assisting as muppets, and wonder just how it is they every got their jobs, and you cant quite seem to understand why the boss doesn't recognize just how critical you are to the organisation.
This sort of HR can add value, and I know some employers really value this type of HR, but it aint for me... I actually think HR can add strategic value to an organisation, you know, increase profits, create better leaders, change the world!!!
Seriously, I know that there is a lot of debate out there, around how HR can provide its services (ie centralised, decentralised, Shared services etc) - but the question I pose to you, is do you think it matters what the philosophical values of HR are within in an organisation?
Not a "tea and tissue" HR person, I actually believe that HR can provide strategic advice of value to an organisation. Not only do I believe HR can, but I actively work to do so.