The Human Resources function has come a long way from the days when they largely focused on payroll, behavioral interviews, and being the people you “logged a complaint” with. In many cases, they are now less of a stand-alone organization and more of an embedded function within the overall organization and seen as “HR Business Partners.” As business partners, their greatest uses are: helping the organization maintain a strong pipeline of talent, supporting a structured review process, and keeping things fair, compassionate, and legal. But not all HR organizations are created equal. Below are a few potential warning signs that your HR function might need a jump start.

Mass Role Proliferation

Do you have as many job descriptions as you have employees? Are lots of people in “hybrid roles?” Having the flexibility to craft a role that fits an individual is certainly important and reasonable as a company scales up, but at some point, you need some standardization. Role ambiguity leads to creativity, but it can also stifle efficiency, create compensation issues, and cause frustration – especially for process focused companies. A competent HR business partner can lead the way in standardizing roles that let people focus on what they like and are good at, creating upward career paths, and driving accountability.

Losing Good People

Are you losing good people because they are getting “ridiculous” offers to go somewhere else? Do you even know what your company’s compensation philosophy is? HR needs to provide guidance on what appropriate salaries for certain roles should be based on market research and the company’s compensation philosophy (assuming you have one!). This goes beyond just creating broad salary bands and leaving things up to the manager’s judgment. I’ve seen situations where the band covered the “market” rates, but the company was only paying at the low end of the band, leaving them vulnerable to poachers willing to offer compensation on the higher end of the same band. HR insight into what is appropriate, and helping the manager make sensitive compensation decisions, is crucial. There are many reasons quality people leave an organization and, although some of them are unavoidable, some can be addressed through a smarter compensation approach.

Keeping Bad People

Do you feel that, in addition to losing good people, you are keeping people that maybe you shouldn’t? Are there people who, when mentioned in leadership meetings, elicit eye rolls and snickers? Your HR business partner should keep you honest in compassionately dealing with people who aren’t cutting it. This could involve eventually exiting them, but likely starts with a frank discussion and a plan to try to fix things. But the guy on his 4th demotion probably needs to leave.

HR has evolved from being mostly a back-office function to a shepherd of what is typically a company’s most valuable resource – its people; you see this represented in titles like “Chief People Officer.” But HR needs to be engaged in the business as a partner, active in their professional circles and up to date on compensation and compliance matters.

In my next blog, we’ll talk more in depth about the first HR warning sign (mass role proliferation) and how to transform an organization from a “jack of all trades” to a focused, streamlined operation.