Does HR Run Your Company?

In business there’s a revered maxim: Never let your bookkeeper run your company.

At Patusan Trading Company I had an experience that drove this point home.  A furniture store owner in Virginia called to say that a customer decided to purchase a $12,000 oriental rug that she had seen during one of our rug show events.  But, she needed the rug before the Thanksgiving holiday, which was two days away.  So I drove 300 miles, delivered the rug, and picked up the check made out to the furniture store.  I promptly and proudly delivered the check just before the store closed at 6 pm.

Instead of expressing gratitude for a job well done, the bookkeeper glared at the check then groused at me, “What am I supposed to do with this?  Where’s your purchase order?”  The unexpected windfall for the store constituted unwanted work and an inconvenience for the bookkeeper.

Fortunately, the store’s owner walked in.  She thanked me for the check, for delivering the rug on short notice, for making her customer happy, and for providing a substantial profit on the sale.

Our maxim has a contemporary corollary: Never let your HR department run your company.  Bookkeepers and HR departments alike perform vital roles that keep organizations afloat.  They do their jobs so that managers can do theirs.  Bookkeepers and HR departments, however, lack the managerial mindset to prioritize profitability over process and consequently, they should be subordinated to management.

As a matter of big-picture importance, few things out-rank the hiring of top quality employees.  Yet HR departments routinely greet job-seekers with impenetrable bureaucratic mazes or with dismissive commands to apply on-line, a process that is fraught with pitfalls such as abstruse instructions, browser incompatibility, intermittent internet connections, and faulty algorithmic evaluation of job skills that are best judged by real living, breathing, thinking human beings.

Too often in this era of “apply online,” instead of a welcoming smile and a “Let’s take a look at your resume,” a job applicant is greeted with essentially, “Scram, punk, you’re bothering me.”  (Employers, if you don’t believe me, try applying anonymously for a job within your own company.  Most of you will be discouraged, if not shocked by the process.)

Hiring those workers who will determine the future success of your company is rightfully the job of management, and it should not be left to computers or to employees who are better versed in filing workers’ comp claims and tracking PLT than presiding over your company’s growth and profitability.  When it comes to hiring top-quality employees, the decisions should come from your company’s top planners.

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