Human Resources Road Map

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A business owner from Kansas called me the other day to vent about some of the exasperation she is currently experiencing with her company leadership team. The source of this conflict is the ongoing disagreement she and the leadership team have regarding the strategic role of Human Resources as a vehicle to improve company performance, planning, and vision. As an unmitigated change agent, the business owner believes the company has historically underutilized its Human Resources’ potential by refusing to leverage its importance beyond simply the bare necessities like: field recruitment, I-9 Form compliance, and the employee handbook. Conversely, the leadership team views the owner as becoming overly process-driven, increasingly academic, and routinely fixated on soft issues instead of hard results.

Make no mistake: Human Resources is certainly a resolute labyrinth of confusion, regulation, and inefficiency. In a word: “Cluster.” That orientation underscores the position of many traditional business leaders, to view Human Resources exclusively as a troublesome administrative necessity that must be addressed with minimal effort, energy, or expectation. Instead of conceptualizing Human Resources as an integrated system aimed at optimizing employee accountability, company culture, and organizational metrics; these business leaders steadfastly interpret Human Resources with a risk aversion mentality that focuses solely on trying not to get in trouble (e.g., a lawsuit, an I-9 audit, legal penalty).

Do some self-reflection for me:

  • Have you ever heard the expression, “Our employees are our greatest asset”?
    • Here’s a hint: It’s probably in your employee handbook.
  • What is the biggest expense that most companies have?
    • I mean people.  In other words, that’s actually your company’s Human Resources.
  • What do business owners think about more than anything else (even more than sales)?
    • People issues: staffing, pay raises, lawsuits, injuries, accountability, customer service, etc.

Am I wrong?

You know it. And I know it.

Owners should expect more from their employees, their Human Resources, and most all, themselves.

As I explained to the sanguine business owner, one of the biggest problems most leadership teams have is that they cannot “see” how the innumerable aspects of Human Resources actually fit together into a meaningful framework that is easy to understand, aligned with business priorities, and predictably planned.

From that premise, I presented the attached Human Resources Road Map to the business owner hoping it would clarify some of the confusion, overcome some of the mystery, and reduce some of apprehension her leadership team has about the efficacious role Human Resources should have at their company.

First and foremost, Human Resources is a system, containing interdependent functionality, promoting synergy, aspiring toward optimal efficiency. The individual functions are not isolated, independent, or implied. They are a collective; they fit together. Each one relies on a predecessor, simultaneously impacting a successor. To interpret any single function in and of itself, represents an error in executive judgment, a fateful harbinger indicative of adolescent naivete.

The business owner was extremely pleased with the diagrammatic nature of the Human Resources Road Map, such that presenting it to the leadership team would improve the likelihood of initiating uniform conversation on the Human Resources functions as they are systemically represented, rather than as ether-bound concepts incapable of being grasped, discussed, or understood.

Owners should expect more, from their leadership teams. But that expectation must start from themselves.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.