Dec 11, 2007

Expectations and HR

Business leaders have different expectations of HR and usually when HR professionals go ahead doing their job they conveniently forget to have any sort of "expectation alignment" discussion with their clients.

If you are a HR professional have you had an explicit discussion about what your client expects of you? Incidentally, have you thought about who exactly is your client? Is it the CEO? The business unit leaders? The middle managers (cranky or otherwise ;-) ? Or all employees?

What happens when you decide you have more than one client? Do you make your priority list explicit?

And what are your expectations of yourself as a HR professional? Where and at what level would you like to contribute to your organization and to your profession? How does that sync or clash with your business's expectations from you?

For some people having the big expectations explicit is important, but for others it can even be distracting when a context does not exist for it in the immediate time frame. For a person like me, the large expectations are important to know. However, I know of people who say "Damn, don't give me the philosophy, just tell me what you want from me this week and next week"

These are different modes of engagement between two parties, specially when one is providing professional services to the other. Someone like Peter Block, calls it the "engagement dance" in the "contracting" phase.

What professionals (whether "internal" or "external") often forget is that when the contracting is for a specific activity, you have to keep going back to the client and re-engaging again in subsequent contracting phases. However, when you have "contracted" on overall expectations, the smaller activities do not need constant renegotiations.

So my advice to HR professionals and business leaders is to make as much of the expectations explicit as possible. Some expectations might be embarrassing to share ("I want you to give me great service, so that I can showcase it and get a promotion") but putting as much as possible on the table makes the relationship easier.