Dear HR, why are there so many stupid rules?

Rules:  It’s obvious when you have them, it’s obvious when you don’t.  Yet, why do you need rules and how do you successfully define them?  How do you create a work environment that establishes practical guidelines for business leaders, yet keeps business leaders balanced when it comes to important people decisions? These are critical questions for today’s rapidly changing workplace.

As a former head of HR, I have often heard business leaders remark that “HR’s rules slow them down” when it comes to operating efficiently.  It’s very easy to view HR as an organization’s last arm of bureaucracy. In this fashion, HR serves executive agendas very well—after all, you wouldn’t want a line manager putting his or her own spin on a sexual harassment investigation.   Yet, while the rules still exist, the overall role of HR has transformed.

We’ve often heard the words, “HR needs to become a strategic partner.”  And while this is critical, HR professionals shouldn’t stop there.  In order to become truly “strategic,” we not only have to understand the business, but we also have to think like business leaders.  This means recognizing and championing change.

Change starts with assessing the effectiveness of the HR function and fixing what’s broken or simply doesn’t work anymore.  Change also means linking operating strategies to an organization’s mission, vision and values.  Think about it: when employees understand how organizational change fits into the company’s mission, the less likely employees will resist such change.

At the end of the day, HR will always have its rules because when rules exist, objectives are easier and more comfortable to achieve.  However, let’s not stop at rules. Being a “strategic partner” is a long-term relationship designed to achieve operating success for all.

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