Yin and Yang

Time to work the details.

In a piece discussing DOMA yesterday NPR reported that companies were confused about what to do with benefits now, thus its “time for HR departments to work the details.”

Details? Is that what we do?

And then I realized, yes.

Human Resources like few other disciplines struggles with self image issues in a continuing identity crisis. We're perpetually 15 years-old dealing with acne and learner's permits at the same time.

Our struggle concerns who we are and who we want to be.

We have two roles

We are both strategic and tactical, yin and yang, morning and sunset all at once.

And sometimes, if we're not mindful, we believe one role or the other is more important. But the truth is:

We need both

Strategic is thinking one+ years out. It's factoring in all the things that can affect our business (thus people) in the next twelve months or more. The economy, our markets, the busiess iteself, competitive threats, customer demands, technology, legislation, etc., etc.

A basic part of our job is to look at how we're positioned in the labor market – do people want to work for us or not – and ask, what will change and how might that affect us?

Training, organization development, big data, risk management and workforce planning are all part of the strategic side of Human Resources.

Strategy is thinking two moves ahead

Yet we also play a very tactical role.

Since the business cycle is dynamic in all respects noted above things are constantly shifting. How do people see their way through the fog? Where are the guidelines, the steps to take, the dos and donts?

Someone has to work the details

How do benefit plans work and change. What's included, what's not. What's our compensation scheme and how do we control costs while still recruiting for the right people. Why do we use the policies we use, how are they written and deployed, and how do we build flexibility into our systems without being inconsistent.

All details. All tactical considerations. All important.

Tactical is getting the right things done right

Our work is a continuing ballet of strategic and tactical.

The classic function of employee relations is a prime example: we deal with each case on its own merits and yet always against the backdrop of where an outcome positions us not just now, but in the future.

We need both sides of the coin

The real risk we face internally is assuming that one role is more important than the other and as a result diminshing one side of the equation. HR is algebraic: both sides of the equation must equal.

So let your angst fade away. Drop the argument with yourself or others as to which side is better. We are strategic and tactical.

Our daily work compels us to shift back and forth on this continuum of today vs tomorrow. Let's accept that, celebrate that, and stop worrying about either/or.

Our discipline demands both.



2 thoughts on “Yin and Yang

  1. Great post Christopher! I find that both managers and HR professionals alike get to be the ones to “figure out the details”. This is both a frustration and a tremendous compliment. Most of us are busy people and sometimes the “figure it out” message means more on our plates. But it also means “you’re smart and flexible and forward thinking, and you can help us do right by our employees because we don’t know how to handle this.” I try hard when I hear “figure it out” to REALLY hear “please won’t you help me” and then I find it less frustrating. Thanks for the great write up!

    • Really appreciate your perspective and comment on this one Katy. Interesting! Turn “figure it out” around to mean “can you help me”! I like it! Thanks for your point of view and for sharing it so eloquently.

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