They monitor productivity measures and hand out feedback to sometimes hostile staff, train often disengaged employees in new systems and technology and handle political issues around discrimination and conflict resolution. All whilst dealing with an ever changing compliance landscape around safety, Award levels, taxation and benefit standards, before dealing with union complaints and government enquiries around outsourcing and off-shoring issues, as well as reporting into the C-Suite and board who are more than occasionally not particularly interested in all of the above, and far too "bottom line only" focused.
It hardly seems to be overstating the case that HR professionals are in the business of pleasing everyone else.
In truth, however, HR's role is far more critical - it is the business of attracting, aligning and engaging the disperate silos, cultures and KPIs within an organisation.And if we're completely honest, there are few problems in business that are not people problems.
So without wanting to over-simplify all of the above, I'd like to suggest a singular focus that is as relevant to HR as it is to leadership or sales, change management or collaboration - and that is because it sits at the root of all human behaviour. It is Identity.
All human behaviour is "Identity Driven™" - it determines what makes us buy, what makes us buy in, what makes us follow, join in or sign up.
People don't buy products or join organisations or accept jobs, they define who they are in these choices. More accurately, they define who they wish to project to the world that they are.
Leadership is therefore not about telling people what to do, it's a process of helping your people become who you want them to be.Culture, whether it be corporate or national, community or personal, is simply a shared identity - a way a group of people has decided to create meaning in their world.
Human resources, therefore, is about creating an identity that is attractive, aligning and engaging. But more than that, it's about ensuring the identity of the organisation is clear and self-sustaining.
So what are the elements of identity that galvanise an organisation's culture? Obviously identity is a complicated series of interconnected behaviours and beliefs, but here are just a few to stimulate some conversation at the office:
1. A shared Language
This seems quite obvious within a community definition of identity, but it is just a relevant to organisational culture. But it means more than jargon, which is often used more to exclude than to invite in. Our language reveals our values, the emotional and belief eco-system we exist in. Clarity around that, or the lack thereof, can determine your capacity to resolve conflict or better still avoid it all-together. A lot of the work The Impossible Institute does with organisations is around creating more collaborative and innovative ways of working. One of the biggests issues I come up against time and time again is the fact that many organisations (most in fact) have departments or individuals with KPIs set up in direct opposition to each other. So one of our processes is to help identify these blocks and help businesses author Co-PIs that measure and reward collaborative behaviour rather than just paying it lip service
2. A common enemy
Admittedly, this sounds like the kind of language that keeps HR up at night. But a common enemy needn't be a person or even a competitor, it could be a situation, belief or behaviour that needs changing. The more this "enemy" is linked to creating value in the lives of our clients and customers, the more focused we are on dlivering them solutions, not simply "doing our jobs".
3. A uniting mantra
Lastly, a uniting mantra that defines the belief, vision, and just as importantly, the tone of an organisation is critical. For Nike, it's to "Inspire the heroism of participation", for Apple, it was around "More humanly intuitive technology", the NRMA strove to be "The Fourth Emergency Service", while for my business, it was about leading "The Creative Special Forces".
These mantras define us in a way lengthy mission statements seldom can.
So what is you organisational identity? What is your mantra that defines who you are, drives how you behave and clarifies what you believe? Answering these questions is key to power as a leader, as an organisation and for building a world-class culture.