The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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Is The Cornerstone of HR Job or Performance?

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HR is certainly changing.  The trend over the last few years is that we are organizations focused on the strategic (over the administrative).  This has manifested itself in numerous redesigns of the HR function for shared services, HRO/BPO, and the HR Business Partner.  This has also included a shift of thinking as we are all quite involved in talent management now days.  But does this really mean that what has always been the core of HR has also changed?

Let me first make the case of the “Job.”  The job defines what we do.  It’s actually the first activity that HR does – not talent acquisition.  For example, before you go recruit, you’ve ideally created a job, determined the functions and responsibilities, figured out what attributes the employee should have, and benchmarked these components and salaries against the market.  After you finally recruit someone, performance management centers around an evaluation of how the employee measures against… the job.  When you compensate someone, the budgets are centered around market benchmarks for the job.

More recently, people have also made the case that performance is the real holy grail.  For example, recruiting, learning and general talent development is not tied to the HRIS, but all are directly tied to performance.  Performance drives an understanding of what actions need to take place to make us better.  Merit increases don’t really happen without performance (at least not effectively).  And at the end of the day, performance is what allows HR to understand how we better deliver the human resource contribution to the organization’s bottom line.

So what’s more important to HR.  Is it the job and defining what it is that we do as an organization?  Or is it performance, and continuously improving that delivery?

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6 responses to “Is The Cornerstone of HR Job or Performance?”

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  4. Ron Katz Avatar

    The question is flawed. To be viewed as an effective HR Professional, Business Partner or whatever, you must understand the specific needs of the job in your organization and then meet the defined performance standards. It is that combination of the “what” plus the “how” that makes HR a contributor.

    If you mis-define the “job” then no matter how well you perform, you have not supported your organization. If you accurately define and understand the requirements of the job but then fail to “perform”, ditto. HR activities must be aligned with the specific needs of the business and the challenges it faces in order to be taken seriously.

    One of the problems today is too many HR professionals focus solely on the “job”, the tactical and transactional aspects of HR, without asking the important questions about which functions are the ones to be focusing on and which can be outsourced or delegated. To truly be a Business Partner, you have to be willing to take risks and accept accountability for the success of the organization. That’s what partners do.

    If HR is ever going to shed its reputation as “support” then we have to get in the game and show some leadership.

    Thanks for listening.
    Ron Katz
    Penguin HR Consulting

  5. Colin Kingsbury Avatar

    In all the companies I’ve worked for, “job” was defined by the manager/dept. head. HR’s role was largely after-the-fact documentation of what had been done. Perhaps this isn’t optimal but it’s the way I’ve seen it done.

  6. systematicHR Avatar


    Of course you are correct – HR is one big integrated and end to end system. At least for the big things, if you miss one process, you’re really destroying the end to end process and failing anyway.

    Thanks for challenging me.

  7. Jacob Avatar

    To Ron and SystematicHR

    I have to disagree with you on this – “Human Resources” is a support function, with the primary purpose of SUPPORTING the Line in HR matters.

    The fact that we have recently managed to get our Head of HR on the Executive Board, should not let us get carried away. We are a support function, period. What we need to focus on, is how we can support the business in (a) increasing sales revenues, (b) reducing overheads from, for example, HR or perhaps even (c) by assisting the morons in Marketing, by creating a more attractive profile of our company (i’ll do that in my lunch break).

    I think it’s very related to the great topic about a “sexy UI” – some organisations require a lot of HR nurturing, while others have a very healthy understanding about the do’s and dont’s – in which case HR’s contribution is not as critical. Then it might be the right time to switch to the good old philosophy of a little trust, a lot of control and heaps of ransaking 🙂

    Med venlig hilsen (Danish for “Best regards”)
    Hey! If you haven’t cast you vote on the best HR systems, go here: