Process Alley – Dead end ahead for HR

How is it that many People teams are still drowning in a sea of policy and processes at the end of the second decade of the 21st century??

Granted, it is usually the teams still calling themselves HR, or workforce, or some other such official throwback to the 20th century, but even so, it got me thinking.

If there are so many good people in the profession (and there are) and if people generally want to do a good job (which they do) then how on earth have we managed to walk ourselves up a blind alley of process? We each individually know what we need to be able to deliver the very best version of ourselves. For the vast majority of us, that’s not by working to a raft of prescriptive policies.  So it feels bizarre to me that we try to inflict that on our colleagues – it’s just plain weird.

Being a ‘why?’ person – I asked myself the inevitable….why? And I concluded that it is down to a misplaced notion of risk.

So I spoke to a few of my connections and, sure enough, found that a good number of businesses have risks on their assurance framework such as ‘employment tribunal claim’, ‘equal pay claim’, ‘recruitment discrimination claim’ etc etc. For sure they are risks, but how real / how high are they really?

Believing that they are your biggest risk will inevitably lead you down the blind process alley as you try to put a ‘belt & braces’ on every people transaction that you do. But, to be honest, I would argue that if they are your biggest people risks, then you are getting something fundamentally wrong anyway and your business is falling in to the trap of being inputs rather than outcomes focused. It's time for a more balanced view on risk.

At its heart, a People team (or other variation) still has the same fundamental raison d’être  – to ensure that its business has enough of the right people to operate effectively. If you believe that, then the biggest risks become getting the wrong people or putting the right people in the wrong place. Your focus then becomes a healthy level of attention on your talent and how you enable your people to be at their very best.

So if you find yourself going doolally tap at what seems to be yet another, valueless box-ticking exercise in order to comply with an HR process:

1.  Take the time to reframe the issue. If you looked at it from a risk perspective, where is the real risk and what could the potential impact be?

2.  Think beyond the People function. Where are the people risks to the business and what could the potential implications be of not effectively optimising your talent?

3.  Keep in mind when you think about talent, that each person is more than the sum of their knowledge, skills and abilities. If you aren’t already hiring for attitude, then maybe it’s time to take a look at your recruitment processes

4.  Engage with your leadership on the reward strategy. Organisations that get equal pay claims tend to be those that have over-complicated job measurement processes. Keep it simple – it’s about people not process

Finally, try connecting in with your risk management team. It’s not as boring as you might think and becoming risk intelligent will help you to drive a more strategic approach to managing your talent.