Don’t Mistake HR Activity with Achievement

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach, once stated, “Don’t Mistake Activity with Achievement.” While he was most likely referring to the game of basketball when he made this statement, it can be argued that this simple warning can be applied in any situation or environment. With the pressure that HR faces to continuously improve operations and eliminate unnecessary costs, many organizations are finding themselves performing numerous HR activities, yet they are not achieving the results they intended. More importantly, many HR organizations are not asking the right questions or seeking the right answers, and as a result, they will continue to perform activities without adding maximum value to the business.

Process Mapping/Improvement, Policy/Data Standardization, HR Transformation, Vendor Evaluation, HRMS Implementation. The majority of individuals that work in a HR environment are familiar with these phrases or activities. In fact, it is probably safe to say that these individuals are more than familiar with these activities as they have undertaken these initiatives within their own organizations. Hopefully, those organizations were able to realize the results they intended. However, the reality is that many organizations are not seeing those results because they are performing these activities, but they have not defined their desired outcome. These organizations are not spending the time to define the mission of their human resource department. More importantly, they are not taking the time to examine how they support the organization in meeting its business objectives.

All of the activities/initiatives described in the previous paragraph can be extremely beneficial to an HR organization. In fact, many of them are necessary in order help organizations realize the value they are seeking. However, these activities can become detrimental from a cost, resource and time perspective, if they are not tied to an overall mission or business objective that has been defined and communicated by leadership. Before committing to some of these common HR activities, HR leaders first have to understand the goals and future needs of the organization as whole. Many HR leaders fall into the habit of focusing internally on their own HR department without any regard for the business. HR Leaders should be asking the right people in the organization some of the following questions: "What are the current challenges and opportunities within the company? What are the future needs that the business is asking? Once the questions are answered, only then can HR really start to understand how they should operate as a part of the entity and how each HR initiative/activity supports the overall mission.

Before committing valued resources to a project or HR activity, HR Leaders have to determine the desired outcomes and objectives of each activity. HR cannot shy away from challenging itself in its efforts. How will standardizing HR polices and data add value to HR and the business?  How does a new HRMS improve our organization and what does it allow us to do? These are a sample questions that organizations must be prepared to answer in an effort to ensure each activity has a clear objective and a way of measuring the realization of that objective. Too often organizations fall into the habit of thinking a technology implementation or policy improvement process will transform their HR organization. While these activities are designed to help HR organizations improve its ability to serve the business and its employees, they often become non-value add when they are not linked to an overall outcome or strategy.

Submitted by:

Jeremy Howard, Consultant – KnowledgeSource, Inc.

Jeremy is an accomplished consultant with extensive experience in helping clients design and implement future HR processes, organizational structures and new technologies in order to improve service delivery and business effectiveness. Jeremy's focus is aimed at helping clients align their service delivery initiatives with their overall HR and business strategies. Mr. Howard holds an MBA and Bachelor of Business Administration from Wesleyan University.     

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