What HR Gets Wrong

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Someone posted this in an HR group earlier this week and I just shook my head.

HR is not confined only to enforcing company policies; it must also act as protector of employees, especially the R/F, from abusive managers, Supervisors and heads. To do this, (I am a firm believer) HR must be a high level function, preferably Directorial, not just Manager, or VP level with staff and line functions, especially now that HR has transformed itself to be a Business Partner – in charged of the Doers of business.

Everyone in the comments chimed in, agreeing about what was said. Some shared their sentiments and how HR is treated well here, but not here.

As a professional manager, it is a shame that HR still don’t understand their role in a business.

Don’t get me wrong. Everything this person said is absolutely true. However, that is not the main purpose of HR.

Following the value chain concept of Michael Porter, HR’s main purpose is to support the core business operations.

How HR Should Look at Their Roles

1) Stop being an enforcer, be an enabler.

While I agree 100% with the contents of the quote, it lacks a basic understanding of how business works in society.

Let me step back a little bit here.

The purpose of a business is to create customers.

Applying the value chain concept with the purpose of a business, people become customers when they are willing to exchange their hard-earned money with something of value to them.

This value is created by the core functions. As a bit of refresher, the core functions are the inbound logistics, operations, outbound logistics, sales and marketing, after-sales service.

The people who are part of the core business requires the help of the support functions. And HR is one of these functions.

Instead of enforcing policies, or put it differently, instead of just enforcing policies, HR should help the people in the core functions — particularly the managers — achieve their goals.


Because that is how management works. You have people reporting to other people. The unity of command and specialization of work is at play here.

The more managers are trained at handling and maximizing their team, the better their output. Do this across all levels, and you get unparalleled results throughout the organization.

Imagine a company with this structure:

Simple Org Chart
Now, imagine every single team achieves their goals because HR conducts trainings monthly or even weekly on management, goal setting, time management, how to interview, how to provide feedback, how to lead effective meetings, etc.

Imagine what would happen if HR provides managers with tools on how to track performance of their teams and actually track the managers tracking their team. They checkin weekly and monthly to see how they are vs targets. They sit down with managers and tweak their tools.

Take note that this isn’t just providing a templated appraisal or feedback form. It’s really down-the-weeds type where HR and the manager discuss what metrics to track for, say, a purchasing officer or a marketing associate.

It’s also not the once a year performance reviews that just gets filed in cabinets to gather dust. It’s an active participation of HR. 

Oh, I’d love an HR who would do that.

2) Create policies to remove and prevent abusive people

The main argument in the quote above is to put HR on a pedestal equal to other managers so they can protect the employees who are not in power.

While I won’t disagree with that, the rationale behind the post is wrong.
It is simply not enough to protect these rank-and-files (and frankly everyone else) from abuse — not just from superiors, but also from one another. Because, let’s admit this one. We all know of that someone who bullies and shapes their colleagues; or “clown” who keeps saying green jokes to that new employee, making her uncomfortable.

While it cannot be prevented, sadly, what HR does next and even before is what’s more important. Or put differently, it’s what HR does not do before or after which makes them ineffective.

Let me break elaborate on that.

In the case of what HR does next, most of the time, the abusive person stays there, and gets away with it.

This is the reason why HR wants to be on a higher pedestal — to be able to implement such measures of disciplining (hopefully, removing) these abusive people. Especially,  if this abusive person is a manager.

So, yes. The head of HR, whatever you call it, should be at the same level as other heads of their departments. Withholding that role power is tantamount to discrimination. HR has to have that ability to remove these kinds of people.

On the other hand, what HR do to prevent this kind of thing from even happening is quite disconcerting, especially for managerial roles. (Primarily because it doesn’t exist)

Managers should be measured by two things: results of their team and retaining their team.

The former is almost always present, while the latter is almost always lacking.

The result of abusive managers is high turnover. 

Of course, this doesn’t involve sexual harassment or physical abuse because when that happens, there’s no need for any discussion. Anyone who does that should not be part of the company.

The abuse I’m talking about is that of shouting, berating, and shaming people in public.

Now that I didn’t include assigning too much work because that is another thing altogether. Filipinos always complain about a lot of work but almost never consider that the current work they are doing can be done through automation or simply be dropped in exchange for the new work. 

However, a lot of managers stay at the company while the new employees keep leaving.

I once had a manager who, in a span of 6 months, had 7 people who left him. With an original team being 5, that was a whopping 140% turnover in less than a year. To give more background, all these people were also hired by him.

Now, what do you think happened to that manager?

What do you think should happen to that manager? Do you think the people are to be blamed?

That should already warrant an investigation. And, no, exit interviews should not be relied on. But hey, HR knows their job, right? (sarcasm)

Sidenote: there are two sides to a turnover. First is the people leaving and the other is the people staying. But trust me on this that the manager is the reason why everyone left.

3) Learn the business and what the managers are doing and responsible for.

Personally, this is the biggest frustration I have wih HR. They know nothing about my (and my team’s) priorities and mandate from my boss. They don’t even try learning it.

This translates poorly to everything they do. From creating job descriptions, screening applicants, endorsing “qualified” applicants, onboarding, and eventing in between.

That is why for the past few years, I handle all aspects of interviewing and just give HR a heads up and updates on everything. I let them handle the paperwork but the experience of the candidate is controlled by me.

When I was working with HRs who were recruiting for developers, I was in shock that they do the screening and that the client allows to do that.

How do you think they would effectively screen for Java, c++, and sql knowledge?

What about object oriented programming, APIs, and database management?

I can imagine HR asking something like, “So, do you know java?”


“Ok great…” then asks next question.

Or maybe a more generic post like a marketing associate. HR goes “what do you know about marketing?”

The applicant says a bunch of words and HR hears “product” “price” “place” “promotions” and ticks off the person knows her marketing.

Funny as it may sound, I worked with HRs who did these kinds of things.

Or that they screen via schools or photos. A friend of mine told me once that he had a manager who would “throw” resumes from applicants if it’s not from X school. Only applicants from this certain school gets looked at.

While there is no doubt about the increasing importance of HR in the modern workplace, the fact that they remain seated in their cubicles and acting highly makes them ineffective.

If only HR would stop thinking of themselves as unexpendable and really understand their roles as support for managers of the organization and do these 3 things, I strongly believe we’d have better organizations. We’d have better managers and better teams who are all achieving their targets while developing themselves in the process.

Businesses Grow by Focusing on Their Strengths

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Make strength productive, one of the habits Peter Drucker said effective executives do, is one of the things a lot of managers and business owners understand but fail to live out.

And you can’t really blame yourselves for that.

That poor performer or that failed product launch really sticks out like a sore thumb. It makes you feel like you are a failure yourself. That is why you do everything in your power to improve it.

You spend more time working with them. You crunch in more hours to make the product better.

I know the feeling. I felt like that too. And I’ve done all those things as well.

But that strategy or approach to business rarely works. Ok, let me rephrase that.

A focus on improving weaknesses rarely leads to growth. At best, it leads to incremental improvement – a few percentage points up. Not the 5x, 10x or more types of growth that we often hear in the news.

Take the story of this Agricultural Startup called MNLGrowkits.

(Full disclaimer: I am one of the partners at MNLGrowkits).

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Focusing on Strengths

The current CEO and Founder of MNLGrowkits, Carlo Sumaoang, started the company last February 2014. After a year and a half, he recruited me (together with other people) as partners and gave us shares for the company. This move divided the work of sales, marketing, events, research and development among us all instead of just work him.

Since I am in-charge of digital marketing, the results I can showcase are in this realm only. The timeframe used here as reference is before us joining (January 2016 to September 2016) and now (October 2016 to February 2017).

  • Marketing reach increased 98% from 6,695 to 13,258.
  • Average visits per month increased 522% from 588 to 3,658
  • Monthly average orders increased 1,220% from 5 to 66.
  • Average revenue per month increased 1,430% from 3,440 to 54,134 (website only)
  • Brought in 50,317 additional revenue through ads
  • Ad ROI currently at 170% from being unmeasurable before.

Apart from these results, the other aspect that might not be explicit here is while these improvements are great on their own, the most important result often gets neglected.

See, because our CEO delegated these tasks to people who are capable, it freed up his time to be able to work on more important aspects of the business and on only the things he can do as the CEO.

We were able to launch new products (duo kits and garden kit) and other projects. If he was still working on every aspect of the business, he could only have grown the company incrementally.

And that is the biggest benefit of focusing on strengths and not on weaknesses.

So, are you focusing on strengths, or relying  on simply improving your weaknesses?