For whom should HR advocate?

Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of the word Advocacy.

For most of my long HR career in service industries, my colleagues and I believed our role to be an advocate for the employee. Those who spent their HR career in a collective bargaining environment may feel they advocate for the employer.

In Repurposing HR: From a cost center to a business accelerator, I highlight the role of Advocate as one of eight StopOvers on the RoadMap – the process for becoming a business leader rather than a service provider. Here’s how I explained it…

“The HR profession struggles to emerge from the “people person” image. Many of us went into the field because we liked working with people. The reality is that human resources plays two advocate roles, which often conflict:

  • HR is an advocate of the organization. Are the people decisions the best decisions to be made for the organization?
  • HR is also an advocate of the employees. Are we treating our employees consistently and fairly? If we are not, it will have a detrimental impact on the organization.”

Fast forward a couple years. Let’s make it really powerful – we are fast forwarding beyond a time in US business’ history for which we should have been exceedingly embarrassed and learned the hard way about organizational ethics – the scandals of Enron and Worldcom, which set the stage for the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act which, among other things, protected whistleblowers. (more…)