If I’m going to use this blog for its intended purpose, then I’d better get right to work on a core, perhaps the core, issue that lurks, quietly but dangerously, waiting to sabotage our best efforts to achieve improved organizational outcomes through improved workforce performance. The villain of this piece is the sloppy, inconsistent, ill-defined and rampant misuse of terminology.
The English major/natural science minor within me screams every time I hear/read someone who fails to use the subjunctive properly. But my psyche screams even louder when colleagues who should know better use talent management or SaaS to describe whatever ill-conceived idea or product they’ve got on offer this week.
But where to start? The colloquial vocabulary for many to most of the important concepts at the intersection of human resource management (HRM) and information technology (IT) is so imprecise that I could make myself and you totally crazy trying to unravel that muddle. No entirely sane person is going to read the 3,000+ pages it has taken me to do so in my magnum opus, although some of you — and you know who you are — have already done/are doing this.
Perhaps the best place to start, as always, is with the results we’re trying to achieve, working backwards from there to figure what must get done, how, when and by whom, in order to achieve those results. In my professional life, the results we’re trying to achieve are specific organizational outcomes through improved human resource management (HRM). But what is HRM?
HRM is a business domain, a collection of processes and business rules whose purpose is to help ensure long-term business and organizational success. HRM is about planning for, organizing, acquiring, deploying, assessing, rewarding, leading, coaching, supporting, informing, equipping, retaining, and developing a high performance, cost-effective workforce. It is also about nurturing the growth, usage and value of the organization’s intellectual capital and personal networks.
What a mouth full, and there’s more. HRM isn’t just the work of a central/local/3rd party HR department. While an HR department and HR professionals may still control the strategy and design of HRM, HRM execution is increasingly in the hands of managers and leaders at every level and the increasingly technology-enabled, self-sufficient workforce.
The bottom line? The purpose — the expected organizational results — of HRM are to maximize the performance of the organization’s workforce and the leverage from its intellectual capital and personal networks toward achieving the organization’s stated business outcomes. If we could get all of the organization’s work done and results achieved without any workforce, we wouldn’t need HRM. But we can’t, so we do.