To many people in business the HR department is perhaps the most mysterious and the least understood.  After all, IT is just a bigger version of the computer we use every day; we could fancy ourselves having a go at selling something and most of us can add up a bit. But when it comes to pay and perks, holiday and sick leave, and more particularly when it comes to translating myriad laws about discrimination, employment, health & safety and pensions into reality; well that’s another task entirely!

OK perhaps that’s a little too glib on all fronts but the reality is that in numerous organisations the HR department holds sway over large sections of the business.  But that’s fine I hear you say.  After all, HR is only acting in the best interests of the business, working to engage employees, to provide the training required to advance the business and to ensure that the business stays on the right side of regulation.  And in many businesses you would be right; but there are times when with the best will in the world, decisions made by HR may backfire.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.  In a multi-office organisation the HR department was tasked with cost savings, so they decided that a process which was carried out by every branch manager every day could be simplified.  The simplification worked and each manager saved about 15 minutes each day.  Good news so far; but then HR decided that in total they had saved yx15 minutes over the whole country and therefore could get rid of a number of managers. Luckily someone saw sense before chaos descended.

In another company, a different cost saving initiative saw employees being required to complete and input their own time sheets into a new programme.  Again on the face of it a good initiative as it saved employees filling in time sheets, passing them to line managers for sign off before going to HR for overtime and other calculations.  The only problem was that the new programme was extremely complex which meant that employees were spending a considerable amount of time in completing their returns, as were the line managers.  So whilst HR saved their own time, overall the business lost out.

Both real examples of the HR department trying to help the business but both ending up potentially costing the business time.  And the reason was simply that the initiatives were created in isolation, without due consideration for the way in which other departments worked.  Before you think we are picking on HR here, we could equally give you similar examples of the accounts office making expenses claims unduly complex, of IT creating an overly complicated sales order form, or of sales promising improvements that development couldn’t deliver. 

When we work in silos, when we look at statistics and matrices which only concern single departments, when we view the part as more important that the whole then there is no understanding and no cohesion.  What may be a brilliant solution for one department could be a disaster for the rest of the organisation and we may never find out until it is too late.  That’s why organisational cultures which embrace innovation and collaboration are so much stronger than those which don’t.  When you have collaboration you have cohesion; when every department seeks to understand the others then a holistic view of the business generates solutions which best suit everyone.  It doesn’t take much, to talk and understand and share but it could just save the business in the long term.