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A Letter to Managers and Leaders from HR

Dear Managers and Leaders,

After much contemplation and a few cups of coffee, we've decided to pull back the curtain on a matter that has been brewing within our HR community for quite some time now. Frankly, we've been grappling with an identity crisis that could rival a Shakespearean drama, and we felt it was high time to address the elephant in the room – or should we say, the HR department.

Over the past couple of decades, our attempts to convey our struggles manifested in a series of ever-changing titles – from Talent & Culture to Culture & People, and even People & Change hoping someone would catch on to our silent cries for assistance. Unfortunately, it seems subtlety is not our strong suit. 

In yesteryears, we boldly declared, "We are in charge of the people," and we volunteered to speak on behalf of and about our employees at conferences, despite not having a clue who they were. We took responsibility for your employees' engagement and development, swooped in to tackle every workplace problem, and bravely handled disciplinary matters when you found yourself unwilling or unable.

In a grand attempt to showcase our strategic aspirations, we declared ourselves business partners, forming a seemingly unbreakable alliance. However, the KPIs that would support our claims failed to follow. Today, we find ourselves at the table, acting like someone with daddy or attachment issues, eagerly accepting any task thrown our way, desperately hoping to win you over and love us back. We do everything to make that happen, and we mean everything. Things that are not our job and things that we are not qualified for. 

We acknowledge that we've confused you all, and for that, we extend a sincere apology. It's time for us to be the bigger department and admit our shortcomings. In the spirit of growth and self-awareness, we've compiled an initial list of tasks that are unequivocally your responsibility, and we gladly hand them back to you.

  • Your employees' engagement is your job. Your level of competence, care, and professionalism impacts how engaged they are therefore, engagement KPI will be under your KPIs from this year and not ours. 

  • Culture is created by you therefore, we cannot take responsibility for it. We can design interventions and establish structures that will reinforce the culture but how employees feel about the company is up to you. Also note, that any kind of intervention related to shaping our culture will be directed at you and not at the employees simply because they behave as you allowed them to behave. So, if we were to address cultural issues we would be knocking on your doors and not running culture booster sessions, at least, not at first. 

  • During business conferences you will be required to talk about your people. How you manage, develop, motivate, or hire them. We would like you to speak about your people and your management and leadership skills as proudly as you talk about making millions of profit. 

  • The training of your employees for the job that you supervise is your job. We will provide learning and development opportunities for everyone but we don't want to drag people into sessions and fight with you over scheduling. We will make them available but the rest is up to you. If you or your team members aren't developed it is on you. 

  • We will teach you how to run disciplinaries so you can manage that with your people. We will provide support and ensure that the process is fair and bespoke to each circumstance but you have to discipline your people. If you are a responsible leader or manager you never hand this over to anyone, simply because they are your people. They are under your care. 

  • If you want a staff outing or team building you can organise it for your team. Build your team! HR cannot build it for you. 

  • Hiring your team is your job. We will source candidates and do the initial screening but then, you have to decide as you are the ones who will manage and lead them. 

  • You have to decide who to lay off from your team and you have to deliver that message. They are your people and they want to hear the reasons and the reasoning behind the decision from you. But, hold it, partner with HR so you don't end up on social media. This is what partnering with HR looks like and not that HR does the job for you. 

Let's begin with these and assess our performance. In short, we will guide and support you, but we will not do the job you were hired for.

We are not in charge of the people; you are. We are in charge of policies, procedures, and practices governing the experiences of individuals within the organisation, including you. For this to occur, we must strategically collaborate with all of you, collect data, and craft interventions based on that. This way, we can rightfully call ourselves strategic partners.

Our role is to protect the business, and we achieve this by assisting you in becoming better managers and leaders. This involves making ethical decisions and designing employee experiences that you can brag about at conferences. We want you to take responsibility for your employees, but please note that if you falter, we will be there to deal with you. Our commitment to protecting the business hinges on guiding you toward quality people management practices.

We don't want to be the bad guys anymore by cleaning up the mess after you. No, HR is not for that so please, put your big manager and leader pants on and look after the people under your care. 

Exciting news! My second book, "Blind Leading the Disengaged - From Kindergarten to Employee Experience," is dropping in April! It's a treasure trove of solutions and cool ideas to shake up your people management game. But before we get there, let's chat about where we're at now—The Corporate Kindergarten, as I spilt the beans in my first book. Check it out, and let's transform your workplace from a daycare to an awesome employee experience hub!

Join me on YouTube where I drop some ridiculous but helpful content about people management. Let's stop the Kindergarten together:

What is the purpose of HR? Watch here and tell me what you think. 

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