Five roles that HR can be equated to


In any organisation, HR is one function that can be seen in different lights. Here are five roles that HR leaders unconsciously end up donning.

From being the wise and disciplined conscience keeper to lending the much-needed emotional touch to a workplace, HR in an organisation has to wear many hats, depending on the situation. In any organisation, HR is one function that can be seen in different lights. Here are five roles we see in our day-to-day lives that HR leaders themselves compare HR to:

HR can easily be compared to a parent who guides a child through life but , at the same time, lets the child live it on her/his own terms. In an organisation, while the operating principles are laid down, HR guides people with the right behaviour. HR is similar to both a mother and a father – providing love, care, nourishment, social awareness and the ability to make the right choices and display the right behaviours. Mangesh Bhide, technology HR- head, Reliance Jio Infocomm, says, “HR makes the environment more humane and with technologies in automation and robotics disrupting the workplace further, providing the warmth and nourishment just as a parent, will become even more pivotal for HR now.”

The administrative role of HR is diminishing, and with passing time HR needs to focus more on governing the emotional quotient. Moreover, even in performance conversations, HR acts as a parent, assessing individuals holistically, identifying their strengths and weaknesses and guiding them through the right path, while providing a long leash at the same time. HR in an organisation is the harbinger of a balance in discipline, comfort and warmth.

Any business, at one point or the other, comes across a situation where tough decisions have to be taken to establish a just environment. HR is that strong force in such situations in an organisation. It takes the wise call and ensures that justice prevails. Citing the example of the Union Carbide India disaster in Bhopal in 1984, Ravi Mishra, regional HR head, South Asia and Middle East, Birla Carbon, shares that although the exact reason behind the incident remains under debate, apparently the person responsible for closing the valve, fell asleep at work that night due to overwork.

“The point in case is, that HR is responsible to pre-empt such situations and keep an eye on anything that could potentially harm the employee(s) or business at large, and take proactive measures to prevent any such occurrences,” says Mishra. He’s of the view that HR needs to be a conscience keeper and establish justice even in tricky situations, thereby providing proportionate punishment. It has to have a disciplined, yet humane approach, while listening with an open mind.

More important than the traditional administrative role that HR plays in an organisation, Mishra says that HR in an organisation is similar to a magistrate or a bureaucrat in charge of the health, hygiene and order in a city. For instance, in manufacturing industries, HR needs to keep a close watch on anything that could cause injuries or fatality and take preventive measures. Whereas, in other corporates, HR needs to ensure that the systems and policies are considerate of employee concerns and are such that they mitigate the possibility of any discords or mishaps at the workplace.

The role of HR could also be compared to that of a teacher — as someone who develops people; empowers and equips them to take up larger goals; and make them able enough to achieve them. Just as a teacher, HR develops and educates people, helping them grow. Mishra believes that more than just a teacher, HR is a facilitator of development as it is responsible for unlocking the real hidden potential of people and help them benefit from the same. “Any organisation can only grow if the employees see consistent development therein,” he opines.

Uber Cab Driver
Last but not the least, Adil Malia, CEO, The Firm, believes HR should be similar to the ‘Uber Cab driver’ – providing service on time, making life easy, being accurate, following the best path, caring for clients and constantly seeking feedback for better offering of future services.

At the same time, he feels that HR managers should certainly not be like the ‘9pm TV News Channel Anchor’. “He should strive for a balanced debate to bring about sanity in chaos. He should value information; allow a free debate; and work towards a collective positive outcome through his facilitation skills, adding wisdom to decibels,” he concludes.

(As based on interviews with Adil Malia, Ravi Mishra and Mangesh Bhide.)


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