Human Resources - SWAT Team or Community Constable?

A client recently said to me that he had gone off the term ‘Human Resources’ as he felt that it reinforces the tendency to ‘objectify’ the people in the business. He said that HR people seem to forget at times that their role is actually to “resource the humans not treat the humans as resources….”

So, how do human resources professionals define themselves, their roles and their place in business? Do Human Resources ‘Police’ the business or is HR a business partner that can support company profit and success?

The SWAT Team Approach

A typical Human Resource graduate is schooled in the SWAT team approach, it is pro-active, manages risk, increases compliance and is generally designed to keep an organisation ‘safe’ from the behaviour of their staff. I have spoken to HR professionals who don’t feel like they’re justifying their existence unless they are rolling out initiatives, actively directing the behaviour of staff, creating new policy and reinforcing the need to ensure compliance.

The Community Constable Approach

Other HR Professionals see themselves as in the business to support people, to ensure they have the tools they need and to guide behaviours around recruitment, retention and engagement. In our police analogy I would describe these as the ‘Community Constables’. They build relationships, look for places to add value, coach best practice, provide a support mechanism people can draw on when required and offer a reassuring presence within the organisation – showing that the community is being engaged and supported.

What Keeps The CEO Awake At Night?

I think it is safe to say that he or she is not worrying about whether the company has enough policies and procedures. The typical CEO is generally more concerned about how to attract, train, develop and retain the best talent and also how to ensure that they have the right people in the right place doing the best job possible. These are all concerns that effective HR support can have a real impact on and when managed well can support business growth and result in a direct positive impact on profit.

So Which Approach..?

Both HR approaches have real benefits and come with some risk. Over time I have personally gravitated toward the community policeman approach but it is also important not to lose sight of the need for some formal structures designed to manage risk and promote a safe working environment.

So, what sort of policeman are you…….?