HR vs ‘The Business’

The Division between Human Resources and ‘the business’ is an interesting dilemma that is too often overlooked and neglected in so many businesses today. In the several senior HR roles I held in my career this divide never seemed to be bridged or achieve the desired levels of unity. So often I have seen some sort of parallel universe scenario where HR motors along its own freeway, building momentum, pursuing its own agenda and using the business as petrol stations, checking in occasionally to re-fuel and use the facilities.

To the business, all too often HR is seen as a necessary evil, only needed to manage IR and ER issues and help with recruitment and some of the business administration. HR is usually happy to ‘pay the rent’ by performing such tasks, but really has its eyes on bigger prizes, such as winning repute and awards for advancing its diversity agenda, building leadership programs (because HR just happens to know all about Leadership) or aligning the organisational values with the business.

Meanwhile, the business is usually looking hard at the numbers, the cash flow, the strategic requirements and options, and a myriad of operational and tactical issues that consume time and attention, not to mention delivery of the products or services, business development, and regulatory compliance changes.

There are many reasons for this and business size and segmentation is only part of the story. Power, perception, ambition, transactional analysis, ownership issues, education, background, personality, all play their part, as well as the issue of who controls the money. Unfortunately the required trust, respect, and understanding are not really there.On some things perhaps, but not everything. Think Venn diagrams.

Often we are left with some sort of arranged marriage scenario, the co-existence, the separate beds situation, where each party accepts some level of necessity or requirement for cohabitation without ever really feeling the love. What can be done? Business 101 HR 101 or Counselling 101?

We intuitively know that heightened performance only occurs when the organisation is greater than the sum of its parts. Like any relationship, responsibility can be apportioned across all parties, with the strengths of each element also contributing to its blind spots and weaknesses. But just as in other forms of relationship counselling, bridges and strategies can be learned and practiced.

This works best when there is an impartial and independent coach who can operate from the outside.


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