A family member recently sent me a video of a small military group driving a Jeep down what looks like a small-town Main Street parade. I’m talking straight up Mayberry here. The only differences were that this video was in color, there wasn’t any whistling, and Gomer Pyle and Barney Fife were nowhere to be found.
Thank goodness for that.
In the video, the group pulls the Jeep to a stop in front of the small-town crowd, jumps out, and within one minute has the entire vehicle disassembled, parts and pieces carefully arranged on the street. Check it out!
Now, I don’t watch NASCAR and I know virtually nothing about cars, but I’ve always been amazed at how quickly pitcrews do their business. Those guys can change four tires and fill up a gas tank in the time it would take me to roll down my window and ask for directions. Who am I kidding? I’m a guy, I don’t ever ask for directions.
But NASCAR pitcrews had nothing on this military team. These guys did it all with basic tools, not the fancy ones you see in Daytona. Then, just as quickly as the team tore apart the vehicle, they expertly and precisely reassembled it, piled in, reversed, turned, and drove off to loud cheers from the crowd. Pretty damn cool.
What the heck does that have to do with human resources you ask?
Simple. Each member of the team had a specific task they needed to complete in coordination with the rest of the team. Take one man out, or forget one task, and it completely throws off the necessary sequence. If one person doesn’t carry their weight, literally or figuratively, the team won’t function properly.
To me, human resources is the coordination and positive manipulation of human assets within an organization in order to accomplish necessary tasks. The proper completion of these tasks should help the organization achieve its broader goals. It is maximizing human potential to accomplish organizational objectives.
Get it now? Pretty basic stuff, really. Assign each team member specific tasks (or better yet, develop an organization that is able to figure it out for themselves with guidance, but without mandates), help each member realize how critical their responsibility is to the team, the mission, and the organization as a whole, practice until the procedure is second nature, and recognize the achievements.
Disclaimer—many people do not want to work in an environment in which they do the same repetitive task over and over and over. It doesn’t foster creativity, a vital characteristic of successful people and organizations. Sure, the idea of tearing down and rebuilding a Jeep is a pretty creative way to demonstrate teamwork, but if you ask the guys about each individual task, it is probably fairly mundane. That’s not the point I’m trying to make here, so stop thinking outside the box or questioning my intentions, you creative thinker you.
So where do businesses screw up? There are probably a million answers for this. Too many supervisors on old-school power trips want to manage, and not lead. Too many supervisors know the ins and outs of an organization but don’t have the you-know-what to lead. We’ve seen them all. But for me, and perhaps I’m biased (ok I’m absolutely biased, but I don’t care), there are way too many organizations focused solely on the bottom line that they forget about the people they need in order to improve that bottom line.
There are many disciplines that fall under the HR umbrella, each with a vital role in helping both the HR department and the organization as a whole.
- Some disciplines are focused on administrative responsibilities, such as benefits and compensation. These departments are often seen as the quiet office in the back that contribute little besides entering hours, processing paychecks, and explaining benefits programs (oh, and telling us when our insurance premiums are increasing).
- Some disciplines are the bad guys: the compliance and ethics committees and employee relations departments. These are the folks who have to get involved when people can’t act like adults at work.
- Of course, then we have the staffing management and diversity disciplines; the ones responsible for attracting diverse candidates that fit with and hopefully can contribute to the organization.
- Finally, we have the outcasts: those weirdos in the employee and organizational training and development departments. Yeah, the ones who ask you to get out of the office and attend some training designed to improve performance. What a crock. They get paid to come up with that stuff? In reality, the training and development department’s responsibilities are complex and critical. They are the bridge between the number-crunching (or penny-pinching, depending on your perspective) managers and the hard-working frontline employees. The T&D staff are the ones who want to help both sides reach their goals. T&D staff are the ones who are probably trying to come up with ways to improve the physical and emotional environment in the workplace, researching the benefits of telecommuting or flexible schedule programs, on-site daycare, employee health and wellness programs, and then pitching these ideas to managers who more than likely see them as expenses rather than benefits that can improve satisfaction/productivity/retention/profit/awesomeness. Yeah, such terrible people they are.
These are the people who realize that the most important assets of an organization are the people who work there. Not the product or service, not the equipment, not even the posh office space. No, it is the people who make the business tick.
Keep them happy and the business will likely flourish. Treat them like they are just an expense, and the business is screwed.
Remember what I said earlier? That whole spiel about how human resources is the maximizing of human potential in order to accomplish organizational objectives? Well that can only be done by each HR discipline working together with management and each organizational department (and each individual, if you really want to get specific) to complete small tasks. Some have behind the scenes roles, while others are lifting entire engines from car frames and carrying them fifteen feet, but each is critical.
And when those tasks are added together, you get one badass vehicle that you don’t want to get in front of. That is human resources to me.
Happy (upcoming) Memorial Day to all of our military men and women and those who’ve sacrificed it all. You are all the real badasses.
And by the way, I recently discovered that the military group in the video was actually from Canada, not the US, as I originally thought. So I raise an ice cold Molson (or Labatt or Moosehead) to you, Canada. You are badass too.
This post was written by Kevin Kuhn. Kevin is an HR pro focused on blending comprehensive human resources practices with new-age wellness techniques to help companies stop wasting money and start being more productive. His specialties include developing training programs to make people work smarter and implementing corporate wellness programs to reduce health care costs. Couple that with employee engagement, conflict resolution, effective retention strategies and his ability to get Gen X and Y to work together nicely, and you’ve got the total picture.
Kevin is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a Human Resources Management degree, a (past) Certified Personal Trainer, Baltimore sports fanatic, and soon-to-be-famous home brewer. Connect with him on LinkedIn