Value. Not Process.
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
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 a dilemma, and it's not rocket science.
The most important thing that any HR leader needs 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 the storm. In this analogy, a life of a team or organization when the storm came in, and decisions need to make: to serve, or to protect.
The way that organizations do "to protect" is by creating work processes. Processes, usually imbued by a policy, will then set a standard that anyone in the organization will follow to ensure consistency of implementation and execution. Remember, the process is the means to an end.
What often bothers me as an HR professional is that most of the time, my colleagues in HR profession (or my fellow counterpart) are 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 to make a decision?. The decision is only coming in the ask of a situation that usually doesn't meet any pre-anticipated regularities that policy and process were meant to govern (and decide). Therefore, my answer to the question of whether it is 'to protect or to serve' is always this:
(a) Do we have a 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 is being disputed.
(b) If the answer is "No", then the discussion should all be about Value. How can then we make 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 to the case in question or simply put it in jurisprudence for future reference. Even more sophisticated field such as Law has jurisprudence as a reference, so it's not an issue for HR to also have ones.
The key is: policy and process are means to an end, it should not be the iron cage that binds us back and become what blocked HR leaders to deliver value to our People.