Reflections on #Lrnchat: What if HR was solely focused on human resources?

Image use courtesy of lrnchat and Kevin Thorn (@LearnNuggets)

Each week that I am able to participate in #lrnchat discussion I post a summary of the discussion to my blog. I do this both for my personal development as well as sharing with the Learning and Development Profession at large. This summary is based on my own interpretations of the chat; others who participated may have differing opinions or interpretations of the discussion. I welcome those that do to add your ideas to the comments.
The topic of this week’s #lrnchat session was “What If…?”.
I always find looking at the questions that are used to loosely guide the chat as a nice way to see the overall theme of the chat. Here are the discussion questions that were presented to the group:
Q1) “What if” is today’s theme. What if HR was all focused on human resources (not just policies, benefits, liabilities)?
Q2) What if the “Learning” department only focused on learning, rather than training, course development, schedules?
Q3) What if managers really managed? What could they be managing more of & what would they be doing less of?
Q4) What if supply actually followed demand? How would orgs be different? Especially L&D, HR, mgmt & leadership?
Q5) What if you could ask the rest of us a “what if” question? You can! Please do!
These are all great questions to ponder, so I’m going to explore each of the four questions in a separate post.  This post looks at the first question: What if HR was all focused on human resources (not just policies, benefits, liabilities)?
I have a 2 year old son, and he is ALL BOY.  Like many youngsters, his enthusiasm is well ahead of his coordination. It’s part of the reason that when you see my son, he will likely show you his latest band-aid or “boo-boo”.
Every parent has to decide how they react when their child falls.  It took my wife a while to get used to my reaction.  When my son falls, I usually run over and quickly mimic a baseball umpire giving an enthusiastic “SAFE” call, as if he just slid into home plate. 
Many people look at me a little strangely when I do this, especially when I do it in a public place.  I recall a mother at the park lecturing me for being an ‘uncaring parent’ when my son wiped out and instead of scooping him up I gave him the ‘safe’ call.
I had only one response to this woman. “Did you notice that he was smiling when he looked up at me, and got up and continued running as if nothing happened?”
There may even be people reading this now thinking “What a horrible father!”, so let me explain.  I love my son and do not want to see him in pain.  At the same time, I do not want him to think that every time he falls, he’s been injured.  More often than not, when we fall we can get back up, dust ourselves off, and move on. 
My son doesn’t understand that yet.  He’s still learning what it means to fall down, and his greatest learning is through observing my reactions.  If he sees me running over the second he falls, he’s going to react the way he sees me reacting: as if something was wrong. I would rather take a quick moment to see if he’s OK – because he would react instantly if he were not – and then congratulate him on the fall.
In short, I want him to realize it’s OK to fall.  It’s in falling that he learns to get up.  It’s in falling that he realizes that a fall isn’t something to be terrified of.  The alternative is to raise him in a way that may lead him to be afraid to ever run, for fear he may trip and fall. 
To me this very much mirrors some of the challenges that exist in Human Resources today. 
The very name “Human Resources” implies that people are a valuable resource to an organization, so much so that we have an entire departmental function dedicated to managing it.  I’ve managed lots of different resources – including people – and one of the things I am always focused on is how I can get the maximum amount of value from my use of a resource.
If one of the primary goals of resource usage is to get the maximum amount of value from the resource, than many Human Resources functions are failing miserably.  Think about it. One smart use of any resource is to ask yourself “What can this resource do that other resources can’t?”, and then allocate the resource to that task. 
So what can a human resource do that non-human resource can not?  The immediate list that comes to my mind include things like creativity, innovation, and reflection.  And yet, in many cases these are the very things that Human Resources departments restrict.
Human resources has become increasingly focused on policies, liabilities, and legal issues.  The function is still focused on what employees can do, but the definition of ‘CAN’ has mutated.  ‘Can’ has become less about what employees are able to do and more about what employees are allowed to do.  It would be great if we could tilt the scale back to the other side, and start enabling employees to tap their true potential.
After all, my son will never know what he is truly capable of if I never give him the chance to test his limits.  And that’s why I let him run, and congratulate him when he falls.

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