HR: Talent Jekyll vs. Admin Hyde!
I heard such a great description about HR admin recently that I wish I had found it myself: “talking to an HR director about how useless HR admin is to the business is like telling someone his wife is ugly”! Even if it’s true, you don’t say such thing!
Note that I didn’t write that HR admin was useless. This is certainly not the case, by a long way! In Europe, local legislation around payroll, health and benefits, time attendance… are so difficult and so different from one country to another that you need pretty clever minds to grasp the complexity of it all and be able to set up companywide policies that comply with each local labour law. Just to give one example: in some countries, churches get funded by the State via a voluntary percentage of income tax. Employers need to ask employees if they accept to pay this additional “Church Tax” and to which church they give it, as they give this information to the State Revenue Services. Basically, it means that your HR department may know your religion! Coming from a very laic country where asking such question is almost rude, I was quite surprised some years ago when I worked in Germany and had to provide this information! Another example would be the French pay slip, which has become so complex over the years that it now takes 2 pages and is turning into a joke as nobody understands what’s in it exactly.
Therefore, if you want to implement a centralised HR system at an international level, you may be in for a very long, painful and expensive project as you need to comply with every local law.
The point with HR admin is that all the work and energy spent there is certainly appreciated by employees at a personal level (it’s great to know one’s salary is paid on time, and to rely on a good healthcare), yet everyone knows it has no impact on the business whatsoever, and its influence on employee retention, albeit high, isn’t as strong as business-related elements such as the interest of the position and the development opportunities.
Practically, HR is facing a Jekyll and Hide story: Talent Jekyll would like to spend more time on business-driven projects, developing skills and competencies, hiring the most suitable person, planning for succession with the most accurate evaluation and potential data… Yet Admin Hyde is pushing him away and hijacks the HR department to force it deploy its strength into process-driven projects that will cost twice more than what was budgeted first, and be ready after 24 months of efforts, with a negligible business impact.
The point is that companies already have an HR admin solution, but they may not have a unified view on their talents. As soon as we start hiring, we need to have a payroll system and be compliant with labour laws. Yet defining processes to ensure everyone in the company is properly hired, trained, evaluated… isn’t a given. If bigger corporates can rely on state-of-the-art talent management solutions, ensuring efficient talent development is also increasingly strategic for small businesses.
So where does Dr. Jekyll need to start? Well, it really depends on the company’s needs and strategy: do you observe a higher attrition rate compared to your industry? Do you see a very low mobility? Are most hires external? Do line managers feel comfortable with their leadership skills? All those are examples of questions you could ask or ask yourself. This way, HR will be able to establish and develop a new type of relationship with operational departments, focusing on business-driven talent strategy for which it will get a much stronger recognition than if it were working on a centralised HR management system.