The HR Point of View

What’s your Philosophy on HR? 

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a lot of managers and leaders.  One of my favorite questions to ask when I interview professionals who claim to have successfully managed people in the past is this: “What is your management philosophy?”  In my experience, good leaders have an easy answer for this question.  It may not be something they have written down on a piece of paper in their desk at the office, but they can always articulate an intentional way they go about managing others.  Often, there are a couple things within their answer to this question that reveal a deeply held conviction about how they believe you should treat people.   Good leaders have a very specific and clear point of view about the right way to manage people. 

One of the things that I think is overlooked by many HR leaders is to cultivate a similar type philosophy regarding how they believe successful HR should be executed.  Since HR’s history is rooted in administration and service, it can be easy to fall into a reactive mindset where you simply lose yourself in the chaos of trying to make everyone happy.  As executives are beginning to call for more strategic leaders in HR, part of answering that call is cultivating a defined point of view about how HR should be executed.  Sales executives have specific points of view about how to develop customer relationships.  Finance executives have the same about budgeting processes.  When HR leaders don’t cultivate their own point of view, others do it for them—and our credibility suffers. 

A point of view should be based on your experience, expertise and beliefs.  You are the expert (or certainly one of them) on HR within your organization, so others expect you to have specific opinions on topics in your field.  When you have a financial question, who do you go to?  You probably go to someone in the finance and accounting area.  You view them as the experts and you expect them to have an answer or opinion based on their expertise.  Why should HR be any different? 

Not sure if you have a point of view?  Try answering these questions.

  • What is the purpose of HR?
  • How does HR create business value? 
  • What are the attributes of a great HR organization?
  • How should HR’s success be measured?
  • How do you define talent?
  • When should HR, or part of it, be outsourced?
  • What role does HR play in policy creation, maintenance and enforcement?  And why? 

If you don’t have easy answers that you are confident in and willing to defend, it might be time to do some work cultivating your philosophy.  Fortunately, a philosophy can be as unique as you are.  There aren’t any right answers to these questions because they are all based on opinion.  The significance of having a philosophy is that it helps you find an organization where you can practice your craft as you see fit.  Not every philosophy is a fit for every organization, and that’s a good thing.  By cultivating your point of view on HR, you will become a better HR leader. 

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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