Personally speaking, I have the utmost respect for strategic human resources (HR) executives, and very little patience for what I'll call tactical personnel policy managers.
Full disclosure: I'm extremely biased about this particular topic, as my mother was responsible for cultivating the culture at Claris Software, Apple's erstwhile software spinoff. I really admire the role that strategic HR executives – those focused on identifying and nurturing talent – can play in making a company successful. And although there is a need for certain structure and processes in every corporate function if a business wants to scale, I am acutely aware of shortsighted or rigid rules that can demotivate good teams.
If your organization finds itself at a human resources crossroads as it grows, I highly suggest taking a peek at two separate articles that I recently read.
The first from Harvard Business Review (HBR) – "It's Time to Split HR" – suggests that companies look at splitting up the two separate "jobs" that human resources teams need to handle. The author argues that many CEOs would consult their chief HR officers (CHROs) about high-level hiring and retention strategies that will make the company more competitive.
"But it's a rare CHRO who can serve in such an active role," suggests the author, business advisor Ram Charan. "Most of them are process-oriented generalists who have expertise in personnel benefits, compensation, and managing cultural issues."
Don't get me (or Charan) wrong. The role of that "generalist" is absolutely critical for helping a company grow from, say, 20 people to 50 people. The HBR article actually suggests that companies split the strategic functions of HR: with one branch focused on managing the costs of hiring and managing people, which would report to the CFO; and the second branch focused on unleashing hidden or latent talent for the sake of the company.