Why HR Fails at Organizational Projects

I was watching the movie 300 recently for what seems like the 300th time.

(What can I say? I like gladiator movies, and yes, I know what that says about my sexuality and I’m in HR so I’m trained to deal with that kind of feedback.) But, watching it again reminded me about a very important organizational issue.

In HR, we are Daxos and the Arcadian “soldiers” – we are more than willing to help by bringing what resources we have, but all too often, the resources we bring aren’t what the organization needs.  “So Tim, what are we suppose to do about that? It’s all we have to give,” you say.

What can HR offer other departments?

Watch this clip from 300 to see where I’m going with this:

Too often when we go to Marketing or IT or Finance for help with a major project – think new HRIS system, or the need for branding materials – we offer up ourselves and maybe a little of our budget to move the project forward. Unfortunately, these departments, while needing resources, really don’t need your skills for recruitment or benefit administration. They need graphic designers or application developers , and you give them what Daxos was offering up to Leonidas – Potters, Sculptures and Blacksmiths – when all he needed was soldiers.

So, what can you do in this situation?

The 3 things HR can do

Try one of these next time you go asking for help within your organization:

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  1. Offer to take something off of their plate that you or your team is capable of. Every department has certain things that really could be done by anyone with decent project management skills, or parts of your own department’s skill set, that you have pushed over onto the department to do themselves. Take some of those things back, freeing up capacity of that department to help you.
  2. Go to bat for them publicly with the leadership team. This can be done cross functionally by meeting with leaders from other departments, sending out communications speaking to specific needs of another department and how it can help the organization, and at budget time, by addressing the needs of the other department. HR has great influence around people issues and when budget meetings happen, the word coming from HR in regards to headcount usually goes a long way with your peers.
  3. Build the relationship. Want to know why your HR department is always last on IT’s project list? You don’t hang out with IT. Come on! It can’t be that high schoolish! Yes, it can; and you would be shocked at how certain decisions are made at a high level. Go make friends, and do it fast.

Moving organizational projects forward, that are led or co-led by HR, doesn’t have a political nightmare and a huge stress, but you better bring something more to the table than your cute smile and PHR. The other departments don’t care – they’re overworked and understaffed, just like we are in HR! The last thing they want to hear is your fake attempt at offering up your staff as a resource to help on the project when they don’t have the technical chops to get it done.

Save your breath and find another way.

Come see Tim Sackett speak on What Your CEO Wished HR Would Do at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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