What I want from HR

Synopsis: An emptying of my head around what I want (and don’t) from HR teams I work with.

I worked for years in HR. I now, technically, have a ‘normal’ role, despite still spending quite a bit of time writing and discussing HR.

Leading teams and doing work outside of HR has been a great experience in better understanding and clarifying what I want and need from HR (and what I don’t), so I thought I’d share some observations below.

Please note that this isn’t about the strategic future of a business function. This is what I turn up to work each day expecting…

i) Do the basics well – for all of the talk about HR needing to be more strategic I want my teams paid accurately and on time, supported to develop and I want my vacancies filled in a reasonable time (with a good pool of candidates to choose from). Where there have to be policies I want them to be fair, helpful (rather than cumbersome) and clearly communicated.

ii) Provide insight – I want to be given insight into my team, its dynamics and challenges that I might not find or know myself. I want to be better equipped and with a better understanding after each conversation. Bring me data and bring me insight and bring me suggestions. Expect me to prod and check that data and insight because you are asking me to act based on it.

iii) Provide challenge – I want to be challenged to be better. I want to be told where I can improve and I want someone to bounce my decisions off. I want to be shown different angles to approach a problem. If I’m wrong (I’m busy and we all have blindspots) then I want someone to call that out clearly. Be honest – I don’t actually have enough time for you to manage me as a stakeholder just tell me what I need to know. I need you to help me crack on with making things better.

iv) Provide support – leading teams can be lonely. I want someone that I can confide in and who will find ways to help. I’ve already got more than enough people judging my leadership – be the person that works with me on it.

v) Problems solved – I don’t just want commentary and chat. I want problems solved and action taken. I want to notice the difference to the organisation and my teams of having a good HR team in place. I want to see that activity has value. I want to look at whatever you do and see the link to improving the organisation.

What I don’t want

i) My team’s/my time sucked up – I want as low an amount of paperwork to complete as humanly possible and if you are chasing me for it I want you to utter the sentence ‘I know you are busy with other things’ and to know what those things are. And I’ll apologise if you do those things.

ii) Being told what I should value/what is important – I don’t need to be told that leadership/culture/x/y is important. The problem is juggling that with also delivering performance and operational requirements. I need practical help to get that balance right.

iii) Distant judgement – Step into my world…it’s a mess in here and every time I think I’ve got it sorted something else moves or breaks. I don’t need you to visit that world, I need you to live in it with me. Part of ‘the business’ rather than talking about it like it is somehow ‘other’ to you.

iv) Initiatives – if you want me to support something then it needs to have a concrete output and be joined up with other work. Don’t give me posters and isolated work. It’s about the outcome, not the activity.

I’ll be sharing this with my HR team too, because I need to get better at ‘contracting’ too and that’s my side of the deal (we don’t have a problem here, but I can be better)…and typing this out certainly made me aware of where I hadn’t provided support and challenge in the right way over the years.

Quick PS – a couple of people have described the activity above as transactional. I would see solving problems and delivering value across an organisation in a joined up way as transformational. I’d include effective change management etc within that.

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