What HR Gets Wrong

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.

Ariel Lim

Ariel Lim

Management consultant / MBA / Inbound marketer who helps startups generate leads, create and execute strategies.

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