Daniel Levitin argues that music is not simply a distraction or a pastime but a core element of our identity as a species. He goes on to explain human nature through six kinds of songs. They are songs of friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love. As HR is in my view less complex than human nature, I reckon I need less than 6 songs to explain what HR is all about.

So let’s start with an open door: HR is all about people. So I felt a song where the word people appears twice in the title, multiplied by the word help, would adequately apply: People help the People. Whether you prefer the original version by Cherry Ghost or Birdy’s cover version, the lyrics remain dark and mysterious and leave a lot to the imagination. Except for the first part of the chorus:

People help the people

And if your homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it

People help the people, nothing will drag you down

I’m sure all HR professionals will recognize the handholding and helping get people through their working day, whether you’re helping a low-level employee or high-flying manager. Although draining, handholding makes you popular and shows the human side of HR. We all know that’s comforting for both sides. Those in need are helped and the HR function scores.

The second part of the chorus unveils an interesting spin:

Oh and if I had a brain, Oh and if I had a brain

I’d be cold as a stone and rich as the fool

That turned, all those good hearts away

Again I’m sure all HR professionals turned a lot of good hearts away and all for perfectly valid reasons. Business comes first. Business is not about serving or employing people. It’s about reaching the business goals the organization has set. It’s about satisfying your customer, outperforming your competitor and create shareholder value.

The song explains for a part today’s schizophrenic discussion about the value of HR. The ownership of people, their performance, growth, value and happiness lies in the business, not in HR. The business needs to pick up its responsibility and stop outsourcing any perceived people issue to HR. HR professionals in return need to be well-grounded business people with a business view. HR’s lame excuse that the business folks are refusing or incapable to exercise their responsibility is in this day and age outdated.

In a previous blog, I argued HR’s prime goal in life is to enrich and optimize the network in terms of talent and output. You notice the word ‘people’ is painfully absent in my paradigm. The network is so much more than individuals or people. Addressing the network with a structural and holistic approach is HR’s next challenge.

For those of you disinterested or tired of the discussion, why don’t you listen to both versions of the song and let le know which one you prefer?