Thursday, January 31, 2013

Can HR Practitioners Be Entrepreneurs?


My colleague and fellow blogger Ian Welsh, recently wrote a blog post entitled The HR Entrepreneur – Moving the Business Forward where he asks these questions:

“Do you see the HR entrepreneur as in the strongest position to support business moving ahead?”

“Do you think that if we moved a little further in that direction we would gain greater acceptance by our peers, achieve at a higher level and finally sit at that elusive table?”

He has gotten a lot of responses ranging from NO – HR people aren’t entrepreneurs to absolutely YES HR people can be creative and can lead the charge.

I come down somewhat in the middle. By nature, most people in HR are not risk takers. That is not their role. HR people tend to be rule followers (and – though they generally don’t like this part of their jobs – they are often rule enforcers). That doesn’t usually make for a good innovation foundation.

I call myself an HR Innovator – but that might be interpreted by some as co-opting HR. I am not an HR practitioner and never have been. I am an HRIS professional. I have spent 25 years building solutions to support HR. Over those 25 years I’ve been able to work on a range of innovative HR projects, ranging from designing a payroll system for the International Labor Organization in 1987, to developing artificial intelligence routines to extract HR data from the web in 2008. In all these endeavors I have been able to tap the huge reserves of very clever HR people. Without their input – these projects would not have been as innovative and would not have been as relevant.

At the core of Ian’s excellent blog is this very point: HR people keep HR Entrepreneurship relevant.

I have not met many pure HR practitioners who are natural entrepreneurs. It is not their training and not their mindset – but HR entrepreneurialism would be much diminished without their participation. They may not be the engine that drives the change, but they are at least passengers, and may even be the ones doing the steering. 

(Image by Frits Ahlefeldt Public Domain Pictures)