Putting People Before Process

Throughout my HR career, I have consistently championed this approach.  I have seen it as the core purpose of HR work and the way to add the most value.

HR work can too often become process-driven rather than people-driven.  I consistently hear stories from HR colleagues who feel so bogged down in internal processes to the point they have lost sight of the real reason they are there. Yes, our internal procedures help to promote consistency and fairness. However, an organisation’s need for procedural compliance means we can end up losing the human touch. How often do internal HR procedures make things worse?  We can end up being locked in formal cumbersome procedures and reducing everything to a transactional exchange where people feel they are being ‘processed’ within a system.   I have lost count of the number of HR policies and procedures I have read which do not feel very human at all.

HR work by its very nature is messy and unpredictable. Treating our workforce as one homogenous group no longer works.

People are craving more personalisation, more choice and to be treated and respected as unique human beings.  It is no different for our team members working in our organisations.  Reaching for the HR policy handbook rarely gives us the answers we are seeking – people do not fit in the neat little boxes we prescribe for them.

The net result is that HR ends up getting stuck doing lots of internal compliance work. HR too often ends up being reactive rather than proactive. It can cause a lot of stress for all stakeholders.  Organisations understandably want to control legal risk. They see more rules as the way to achieving more control and then need to enforce these rules through HR.  The cycle keeps continuing whilst simultaneously disengaging people even further.

HR does not create value policing bureaucracy. It adds the most value when building a positive environment for people to do their best work.

What we are talking about here is more human workplaces. Cultures of humanity where people are valued rather than cultures of compliance. In my experience, this is the best way to keep organisations safe over the long term.

I would strongly advocate that HR should be the organisation’s humanity champions. We will not achieve this all the while we let the internal processes drive what we do and how we respond.   The reason HR exists in the first place is because of people.  The needs of people should be our catalyst.  HR should, therefore, be centre stage in shaping and delivering this positive approach.  In order to do this, HR needs to shift its paradigm to always put people ahead of process.

The business of business always comes back to people and relationships.


Kevin Miller
Kevin Miller
My 'Why' is to inspire a movement towards truly people-centred organizations. Organizations which see the person first and the employee second. A Coach, facilitator, and catalyst for positive change, I thrive on the challenge of making the world of work better and more humanized for people in organizations. I love networking and collaborating to share fresh ideas, insights and to learn. I have an in-depth knowledge and practical 'hands-on' experience of leading HR and Organizational Development projects. I am a visionary who rethinks what is possible when it comes to HR, leadership and the future of work, igniting positive change in others. Never forgetting the real reason behind my work, I love spending time with my wife Kelly and my children who are the centre of my world and the reason behind my 'Why'.

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  1. Kevin — The phrase that you used two twice says it all: “HR ends up…” HR from my vantage point of being in the corporate world for 35+ years often / usually /always fails to be proactive. HR becomes an arm of management, protecting the organization from the organization – and everyone knows it. HR – actually very much like the U.S. Attorney General – should operate as a distinct unit; a collaborative partner, yes, but certainly strategic instead of reactive.

    Thanks for your post.

  2. Absolutely agree.
    Faced with the continuous change of scenarios, it is necessary that, as regards the attention to be paid to staff, the top management begin to realize that their responsibility is now wider than in the past because it is necessary to definitively leave an area often made up only of slogans and proclamations to concretely center the activity of their company, of their business organization on what is undeniably the most important asset: human activity.