HR – Dribble, Dribble, Pass…

(Why should Sackett, Boese and Dunn get all the sports connections to HR?)

HR wants to be relevant.  HR wants a seat at the table.  HR wants to be part of the business.

But HR doesn’t want the ball.

They want to pass it to the next person and not be responsible for the loss.  And by default – they won’t be responsible for the win either.  HR needs to want the ball.

Dateline: Globe and Mail, March 22 – article:  “Feeling unmotivated? HR managers say it’s the boss’s fault.”

“A majority of the HR managers said executives are falling down in four areas. Seventy one percent said managers should listen more to employees’ opinions, 68 percent said they fail to communicate clear expectations, 58 percent said they need to give more recognition and praise and 57 percent said they need to provide more learning and development opportunities.”

So let me ask this HR peeps…which of the four things in that quote are on your to do list?  I’m guessing maybe one – reviewing Reward and Recognition platforms so you can install a “system” that helps managers NOT be involved in the recognition of great employee effort.

It’s the People – And Their Managers

Too often I have this exact conversation with clients.  They want a system to replace the work that their management should be doing to engage and drive performance in an organization.  They want to “outsource” human connections to a point and click interface believing they have “done the job” and forever on they will have engaged employees.

HR Can’t Pass the Ball

But HR can’t “systemize” engagement.  You can automate tracking.  You can capture data for analysis. But you can’t automate human interaction.

I’ve ranted about this for 5 years now – engagement, motivation, recognition, satisfaction – whatever the buzz-word du jour is – is the Manager’s responsibility.  And it’s a responsibility that can’t happen between bits and bytes in the system.  It has to happen eye-ball to eyeball.

And… since HR is responsible (IMHO) for human “capital” – and Managers are human capital – ipso facto: HR is responsible for Manager’s ability to engage employees.

That means HR is responsible for training, for interventions, for discussions, for help, for suggesting re-assignment, etc.

HR needs to be the department that ensures managers aren’t the problem.  Saying managers are at fault is the same as a sales person saying it is the client’s fault for not buying. Your job is to enhance management skill sets so you have engaged employees.

I know I started with basketball but I’m ending with football… Take some advice from the Keanu Reeves classic movie, The Replacements – when Keanu tells the coach played by Gene Hackman – “I want the ball.”  Hackman responds – “Winners always do.”

So … go get the ball.  Now.  You’re a winner right?

A little video treat – sometimes you need to get aggressive if you want the ball.  Email/RSS subscribers may need to click through to the FOT website to see the video below.

FOT Background Check

Paul Hebert
Paul Hebert is the Senior Director of Solutions Architecture at Creative Group Inc and a writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. Over the course of his career, Paul has worked closely with clients to design influence, marketing, motivation, incentive, loyalty, recognition and reward programs to increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Paul is a recognized authority on incentives and performance motivation. Want to know what’s going to motivate your people to perform at their best and impact the bottom line? Want to know whether your service award program really means anything at all? Curious what psychological principles drive sales behavior? Paul’s your guy… unless you fervently bow down to Maslow. Check out his personal blog at "What Is Paul Thinking?" when you're tired of his FOT rants.


  1. Gowerk says:

    How is there no comments yet? Fantastic post. I agree that the human part of HR gets overlooked these days: “isn’t there an app for that?”. I love that you’ve challenged HR to take on a more proactive role, and it’s truly that easy, I think, to take that ball and go.
    Coming from an interface design background I worked with a few dinosaur developers who would refer to my role in any project as prettifying the application. When in reality designers were solving user centric problems through very practical design rules. Young designers and developers work much more symbiotically today, and have killed that issue. And look at all that yummy innovation getting produced as a result.
    Did I mention this article is awesome? Struck a nerve for me. Kudos

  2. Paul Hebert says:

    Thanks for commenting – and I’m also a bit surprised there weren’t more comments. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir – or the choir is out counting benefit sign up forms or seeing who isn’t punching the clock the right way…

  3. Paul E Milne says:

    Great post Paul,
    I will be using your comments as well as passing this post link on to my HR students. I am continually saying to my students not to become a functional HR person, but to become a strategic HR person, supplying the information the business needs before they ask the difficult questions. So yes I believe we should grab the ball and at times run with it, understand the business, locate the problem areas before they become issues, if managers are the problem, look for the root cause and implement a plan to rectify the issue. Sometimes we provide lots of training and development for our lower staff, over looking the management roles to where the training should have gone. Paul E

  4. Ben says:

    Really good read, Paul. Great analogy about wanting the ball. Thanks for this.

  5. Buzz Rooney says:

    This is a great post. To continue the analogy, HR has become more like a commentator who Monday-morning quarterbacks all the decisions of others. No real stake, no real risk and definitely no real accountability. This kind of HR is for suckers! We spend years educating our selves and thinking and planning for HR-world domination only to hand the tropy off to someone else. You are 100% correct — we gotta demand the ball!

  6. Mila Cooper says:

    Awesome information. I am pursuing my MBA, seriously thinking about HR. My mom was a director of HR in the big and only one train company in Russia for 30 years… I remember my Mother bringing gifts from current employees and future empoyees. Bribes sare normal way of doing business in Russia. You basically cant get anything done with out it. Speaking about my Mom she held her “char” that long for a reason… pass it to me… But i choose to live in the USA… Life is so different their. I had graduated law school in Russia and with that degree a could be a HR director or professional ( but i would not be a professional because my Mother would make shure i would get the same compensation the she had)Talking about MBA, i have a project due about Development and Career Opportunities, can i ask you couple questions?
    Thank you,
    Mila Cooper
    Cooper Motors

  7. Tim Ruef says:

    Building respect as an HR professional means taking action, and calling for the ball. Great post.

  8. Building respect as an HR professional means taking action, and calling for the ball. we got same idea

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