Does Your HR Team Feel Threatened By Freedom?

I take the risk of offending many of my friends in the HR community and if this attempt triggers a level of introspection I would have achieved the purpose of writing this blog.

I have found that in most organizations it’s their Human Resource specialist who come in the way of employees reaching their potential. They become counter-productive to the very idea for which they were put in place in the first instance. To the extent that most employees find their HR being hypocritical while propounding organizational values, vision, mission and the people development strategies.

This happens solely because the HR Manager is not comfortable with the idea of ‘Freedom’ for employees to choose their developmental path. He feels that he has the ‘monopoly’ on the HR developmental models and considers that the rest, i.e., the non-HR people do not have any idea of how people development takes place.

Many start-off with a grand plan of ’empowering employees’ and the moment they find that empowerment is taking away the control from them, they tend to bring in systems which come in the way of true empowerment. The switch to the traditional command and control models which gives them the authority to decide and dictate the career trajectory of the employee in his organization.

They get so much obsessed with the models and frameworks which they learnt in their management programs that they start to move away from reality and implement processes which prove to be counter-productive. In fact, I have in my experience seen that many HR Managers while complaining about the lack of people management skills of their technical managers get jittery when they see that the tech. manager is starting to take charge of all developmental needs of his team members. They sense a lack of control and start to intervene and object to reclaim their so called exclusive terrain.

By doing this, they are getting caught up in the game of survival. They want to protect their turf and remain relevant in the organization. They are confronted with the fear that if they give too much of freedom to the line managers, they will lose their relevance and end up doing only mundane job of administering HR policies of the company. This I feel is a great disservice to the very idea of their existence.

Let’s face it, HR in many technology companies to be particular are not held in high regard. They are considered to be the one’s who are existing to just to administration of policies and procedures and nothing significant which contributes directly to the organizations bottomline. In fact in some organizations because of the rigid theoretical approach of their HR Managers, they have started to look at getting in more diverse non-HR people into the departments. You can call it just challenging the hegemony of the HR specialist. In fact in Google, apparently only one-third of their people operation team is with an HR background and the rest are leaders from other functions or roles; like Strategic Management experts, Consultants, Data Analytics professionals etc. It’s not a surprise that Google has emerged almost 30 times at the top of the ‘Great Place To Work Institute’ ranking.

Human resource managers therefore must not be obsessed with the idea of command and control and let go of their monopoly. They must be willing to abandon practice and policies and keep innovating to remain relevant and up-to-speed with the rapidly change workplace requirements. Only then would the organization they work for, achieve true freedom in achieving their goals.