Dec 12, 2009

Great HR happens when work is boring

The genesis of this thought was during the launch of Jessie Paul's book No Money Marketing at Delhi. I asked Jessie to talk a bit why Marketing professionals in FMCG companies were guaranteed a seat in the table whereas it might not be the case in other industries - like IT services.

Her response was in a nutshell - "When the goods become commoditised - the responsibility shifts from production to marketing to bring in revenue - and that is why in FMCG companies the marketer calls the shots"

Jessie also quoted Drucker's view that the only two functions of any consequence were Innovation (production) and Marketing.

This got me thinking.

As you probably know Jessie and I have had a few blog posts on HR and Marketing - so I see them as two sides of a coin. One facing externally (Marketing) and one facing internally (HR)

The more I thought about it the production/marketing analogy has an internal component - it is "what kind of work people do"/"what people feel about that work"

And this is my hypothesis - that the more work is commoditised - the more people look at it as "just a job" - the more the HR function needs to be active and is likely to be strategic in the organization.

In organizations where the quality of work is high (think design firms, consulting firms) HR is not strategic - in fact in high end firms like these HR is merely a glorified project allocator.

So the question people in organizations need to ask is - what is the quality of work we do and how do we feel about it?

If the answer is "Great" to both the questions, chances are HR is a glorified paper pusher in your organization. If not, then HR really needs to become more strategic - if it isn't !