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Fire Human Resources: Are Policies Destroying Companies?

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If you work at an organization of almost any size, there are policies you must follow. Are these HR rules undermining your ability to get things done? Are they limiting innovation and progress?

That’s the theme of an editorial that appeared in ECN, a publication serving the electronic component industry. It is provocatively titled Fire human resources:

Company policies are the bones of the company. They restrict the company and thus give it structure. Not enough bones and you have a mass of jello. Too many bones (bone spurs) are painful and restrict motion unnecessarily.

Why isn’t HR the only section that interviews candidates? After all, they are the human and resources experts. The answer is simple — HR has no clue about what the job requires. All they know is what the company requires.

The real job of HR is to figure out how to bend the rules when necessary to make it possible for less-than-perfectly fitting parts to work together. Evidently, no one explained that to them.

Job Intervie

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These are serious accusations. We’ve covered problems with company policies before, but ditching the whole HR department seems extreme. Still, the columnist makes a good point: human resources departments can’t work alone, and when they have too many rules they stifle opportunity.

It’s worth looking at the source that inspired this rant:

The CEO of a midsize company recently told me that he’d love to hire a person I had recommended, but couldn’t persuade his human resources group to go along. The candidate is a true genius — with an IQ several deviations above average. I warned the CEO that this individual wouldn’t fit into any established job description. The CEO liked the person — a lot — and felt he would be uniquely valuable to the company. But the SVP of HR said the hire was risky, that it would send the wrong message to employees, and that the candidate would not make a good fit. “What can I do?” the CEO asked me. “I can’t undercut my HR guy.”

A certain level of risk is acceptable. A few systems and policies may be good, but too many make companies stale and reduce the chance that anything interesting will happen.

You may need to “fire human resources” at your company. Or more likely, you need to work with HR to understand what should be done to improve business without closing the door on ideas that don’t fit existing policies.

As always, what matters most is being open to trying something new.

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