“I hate HR!”

It’s unusual to have someone offer such a bald opinion in a first meeting.  But that’s exactly what a CEO of a very successful company did recently.  While I’ve heard complaints about HR (and other corporate functions) before, rarely have those gripes been so pointed – so I asked this CEO what was behind his point of view.  His response intrigued me.

Before I share his answer, here’s a little background.  His company is in the services business.  All he has to sell is people and their expertise: no factory, no widget, no cool device that – as Scott Adams once said about Apple’s products – make you want to balance your wallet on your nose and bark like a seal until one is given to you.  You’d think this guy would love HR! But no, the antipathy oozed out of every pore.

Why? For him, it’s simple.  He hates HR, not because Human Resources are inherently evil, but because leaders are tempted to use HR as a crutch for doing their own jobs.  This CEO is crystal clear that attracting, developing, motivating, and retaining insanely great people is the most important thing his company can do.  He’s just afraid that his leaders will think that those activities are HR’s responsibility.  And frankly, he detests that thought.

“As a leader, you can’t outsource the people function to anyone else.  It’s your job and no one else’s. If HR can help you do that job better, fine!  But don’t ever think you can push it off on them.”

So maybe it’s not just HR. Maybe what this leader was pointing out, in his own over-stated way, was that leaders must own the whole if the organization is to function.  Taking care of customers, watching the bottom line, attracting talent, paying attention to industry trends – the list could go on – that’s our job if we’re leaders.  We have to see the whole, own the whole, and lead the whole.

What should your organization avoid outsourcing?