HR Departments: Partners or Roadblocks in Effective Strategy?

Timothy Stagich (2001) writes that personnel (HR) departments are “blackholes of human potential, buried under piles of resumes and red tape, while relying on hierarchies and cumbersome procedures to justify their existence in hierarchies (p.114). He also writes that HR departments are typically relegated to the “doers of dirty deeds” as they build walls to protect management from the workers (p.94).

The problem is, I am hard presses to argue against his critiques of HR. It’s a funny profession, with an abundance of opinions about the role of HR professionals (like myself). We (HR Professionals) have lots of opinions about how others should do their work, but aren’t always perfectly organized and strategic ourselves. We investigate and critique with vengeance and fail to understand our own departments.

Unfortunately, HR very easily becomes a roadblock to effective change and strategy, rather than effective strategic partners. Stagich (2001) argues that personnel departments would be most useful facilitating employee training and development (p.111). Other than the obvious question of who then processes the HR-related paperwork (paycheques don’t magically appear; someone has to process them), Stagich is onto something. What if HR was that pillar of service in equipping and developing employees to do their jobs? What if every HR process was filtered through the screen of “does this help or detract from our strategy” question? How much of what we do in HR would still be left? Could we actually contribute to the synergy that Stagich advocates for?

I think it is possible for HR to be that strategic partner, but that requires an honest introspective look at how we operate and contribute. Is HR ready for that?

Stagich, T. (2001). Collaborative leadership and global transformation. Bloomington, IN: 1st Books.


About Tim Vanderpyl
I am a student of leadership and human resources, and I'm blogging to share some of my thoughts and ideas with readers. I'm a CHRP (Certified Human Resource Professional) at a large healthcare organization, a graduate of Regent University's Doctor of Strategic Leadership program, and lover of the life that God has gifted me with.

3 Responses to HR Departments: Partners or Roadblocks in Effective Strategy?

  1. Tim says:

    I just wanted to add a comment to Mr. Vanderpyl’s statement about the future of HR Departments. With more Collaborative Leadership, Teamwork and focus on Leadership Development they could be contributing much more to the success of the business organization. Best Regards, Tim Stagich, Ph.D.

    • Thanks Tim. I 100% agree and really am passionate about the potential for HR leadership. I will be studying that as part of my Doctoral final project. I do think HR has an important leading role in any organization. Hopefully one day, we (HR leaders) will prove your words wrong and HR will not be the blackhole of talent many other leaders think we are.

      Thanks again for the comment!

      • Tim says:

        Actually, Tim, you will have proven me correct since you cannot change what has existed in the past. However, I am sure your real purpose is not to prove anything one way or the other. If you succeed at becoming a Collaborative Leader, you will be setting a great example for everyone in your field and initiating positive change for the future. Good luck.

        Tim Stagich

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