Don’t Just Focus on the People!

It feels like heresy writing to HR people and saying, “don’t just focus on the people.” Haven’t HR professionals struggled enough over the years trying to get managers, leaders and companies to do just that! Focus on their employees?

Think of all of the functional names, titles and programs we’ve grown up with that have put the focus on people. There is a reason the discipline has been called personnel and human resources and why titles like “Chief People Officer” evolved over the years. People have been the focus of HR — f-o-r-e-v-e-r!

While successfully attracting, hiring and retaining top talent are critical goals for any business, successful HR professionals must be able to effectively accomplish those goals and be well informed, skilled business people at the same time. Profitable, competitive, successful companies require it. Long-term careers in HR are predicated on it.


It is the leveraging affect of well-organized and well-led groups within a company, all informed by how the business operates, that leads to optimal business success. In order for HR to effectively contribute to this reality, HR practitioners must be able to demonstrate business savvy and knowledge of finance and the economics of business operations. They also must have intimate knowledge of how other functions in the organization work. This is imperative if successful HR plans and decisions are to help drive company-wide success. Enlightened leaders in successful companies expect it.

Creating effective organizational structures around work and providing the policies and tools to unleash the best contributions of top talent are absolutely critical. Knowing how to identify and capture the costs and returns on such investments are paramount if positive financial and business results are to be realized. That requires an understanding of business economics.

Focusing on people and talent alone denies the synergy required for the best business decisions and heightens the risks of over optimization of individual contributions vs. overall organizational performance. The latter has been a stated strategic goal of HR’s for the past 25 years. It has not always been clear what it takes to achieve it.

So “don’t just focus on the people” is the encouragement to you to realize that HR’s role — above that of any other function in the company — is to put full focus on both the business and the people — all the time. Do a good job of that and you will have everyone’s attention.

One more focus before we go

But, there is one last area that cannot be left out. You!

Take advantage of every business training opportunity you can through your professional associations or with the assistance of tuition-aid support, if your company provides it.

Be certain your personal development in business, economics and HR happens by staying aware of leadership, business-knowledge and development program opportunities at your current company. Also be aware of what prospective employers are offering, if you are looking. Stay alert to which companies have high potential programs for their HR staffs at all levels. These are companies that are serious about supporting the HR profession and the success of their organizations by embracing succession planning for their top HR jobs.

If you need assistance building out the experience of your HR organization or are contemplating a developmental move to improve your own HR/business credentials, contact us and let’s discuss how we may be able to support you.

After 26 years of assisting businesses throughout the Bay Area staff their HR functions, we have developed a robust resource for HR expertise — at virtually any level — that may be required to professionalize your current HR staff or to broaden your organization’s capabilities to support business goals. We understand the importance of focusing on talent and operational business needs and can help you find the right candidates to support both at your company. Contact us.

Best regards,