Value. Not process.
Updated: May 31, 2019
One perpetual dilemma that any HR leaders (or any leaders) do is to balance between "to protect" and "to serve". I have the answer to such dilemma, and its not a rocket science.
The most important thing that any HR leader need to have is a lighthouse of principles. Just like a lighthouse, principles will help you navigate a storm, and in a literal way, save lives out of storm. In this analogy, a life of a team or organisation when the storm came in, and decisions need to make: to serve, or to protect.
The way that organisations do "to protect" is by creating work processes. Processes, usually imbued by a policy, will then set a standard that anyone in the organisation will follow to ensure consistency of implementation and execution. Remember, process is the means to an end.
What often bothers me as HR professional is that most of the time, my colleagues in HR-profession (or my fellow counterpart) is using Policy and Processes as the basis of argument on why a decision is made. In my view, if there is already a policy and process, why bother make a decision?. Decision, is only coming in the ask of a situation that usually doesn't meet any pre-anticipated regularities that policy and process was meant to govern (and decide). Therefore, my answer to question of whether it is 'to protect or to serve' always this:
(a) Do we have policy and process that govern the situation being asked? if yes, then we follow it as it has been designed to govern the exact case that being disputed.
(b) If the answer is "No", then the discussion should all be about Value. How can then we making impacts, hence, deliver value to our employees. This is where discretion lies: in the 'terra-incognito' that is not yet regulated by existing policy and process.
If (b) is the case, then the role of People functions is to propose either a policy and process review to cater the case in question, or simply put it in jurisprudence for future reference. Even more sophisticated field such as Law has jurisprudence as reference, so its not an issue for HR to also have ones.
The key is: policy and process is means to an end, its should not be the iron cage that binds us back and become what blocked HR leaders to deliver value to our People.