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I want chips

A Skribt request on Scott McArthur‘s blog throws an interesting challenge: let’s talk about the basics of HR.

I gave that a bit of thought in a wander around the block. And I thought of three things.

Big and small firms

1. The basics of HR in big and small firms seem, on first glance, to be quite different.

Paper work and consulting

2. If the owner of a small-enterprise, asks us for help, say in appointing their first employee, our minds probably leap to ideas about writing the employment contract, for example. I think the leap to paperwork underpins the essential credibility problem of HR.

Yes, the business person is probably in a hurry. And yes, the paperwork and government regulations appear to be the most important issue. We are failing our client, though, to deliver what is after all for us a form-filling exercise.

The issue facing the small business is not paperwork, though it is good to get that right. The issue facing the business person is change. Yesterday, the business accommodated the aspirations of one person. Tomorrow, the business will accommodate a second person’s hope and dreams, expectations and life chances. The minute a second person walks in the door, that business is changed irrevocably.

Are the interests and motivation of the second person a nuisance? Should we try to contain their energies and motivations with contracts and rules and processes, or whatever else?

OR, should we treat the second person as an asset? Should we engage the business person in a discussion that reveals opportunities the business person had not previously thought of? We may need consulting skills to have this conversation, but have it we should.

Admin and managing many conversations

3. Is the HR task any different in a large firm? I don’t think so. Not when I think of HR as leading change.

It is just that in a large firm, we have the aspirations of so many people to consider and formal procedures are useful. That is all recruitment, selection, job evaluation, etc. do for us: manage conversations in a way that our diverse aspirations add surprising business value.

The challenge though is to engage a business manager in a hurry.

Thanks to the anonymous person on Scott’s blog. Does this help anyone else?

UPDATE: I can confirm.  The difference between HRM in small firms and big firms is that in small firms you have to work as fast as everyone else. In big firms, we learn to be slow and unwieldly.

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