Leading HR: Excelling in Administration

HR leaders, in their quest to be strategic, must not forget about the administrative tasks that still must get done accurately, effectively and efficiently. The scope of HR typically includes managing the HR Information Systems, overseeing contracted services, ensuring compliance with applicable labour and human rights laws, coordinating and delivering on projects and many other things. These mostly administrative tasks are an inevitable aspect of the bureaucratic organization that Max Weber described. If HR departments did not oversee these areas, who would? The role of the HR department does not stop with administrative tasks, but HR leaders must continually find ways to present the data they have in useful ways to leaders.

(I know your mortgage payment bounced last week because we forgot to pay you. Just fill out this form and we’ll fix that in a month or so. While you are here though, check out the itinerary for the Christmas party we’ve been working on!).

HR leaders diminish the importance of administrative and transactional tasks to their own detriment. No matter how ‘strategic’ an initiative might be, no employee will trust HR if the payroll department is unable to get their paychecks or benefits right. Operational leaders will not trust HR if the department constantly bungles their transactions. These transactions and administration are a necessity from HR departments, and HR leaders must ensure their teams excel in all aspects of performing them.

Some companies attempt to outsource as many administrative aspects of HR as possible. This may work for some organizations, but can create its own difficulties as well. For instance, healthcare workers in Calgary, Alberta filed a $50 Million class action lawsuit against Telus Sourcing Solutions Inc. in 2009. Telus was hired by a number of healthcare regions to perform administrative aspects of HR for the HR department. This lawsuit alleged numerous errors and issues with the processing of payroll and demanded damages and became a publicity nightmare for government, executives, and their HR department. Outsourcing does not abdicate responsibility and requires unique leadership competencies by HR leaders who must still be responsible and accountable for the services provided.

Metrics are important but must be delivered in a way that serves and benefits the rest of the organization. These metrics must not simply create more work for other departments. Unfortunately, many HR leaders do this inadvertently and diminish their own credibility in doing so (sure I’ll help you, just fill out this 13 page form first and we’ll add it to that pile over there). HR leaders must take a servant leadership approach to the rest of the organization, in order to be truly effective. Few people would argue that administrative tasks are glamorous, but they are necessary to help the organization function, and for the people in the organization to thrive at whatever they were hired to do.

HR departments may not directly deal with customers, but their ability to excel in administration directly impacts the employees who do.

CBC News. (2009, May 21). Health workers file lawsuit over Telus payroll system. Retrieved from link.

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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.

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