Stay Relevant—or Fade Away

It’s easy for a business to get comfortable and rest on its laurels when the cash flow is great and the P&L statement skews toward the P. But history is full of stories about companies that became successful, grew complacent and failed to evolve to meet their customers’ changing needs and expectations, and then faded into oblivion. Remember when Blockbuster continued to open its own brick-and-mortar stores even as the video rental industry underwent a paradigm shift and customers fled to Netflix and to RedBox kiosks?

HR’s function is so vital and broad that in many ways it’s like a company within a company. Over the past decade or two, the HR department has become an invaluable contributor to an organization’s growth. With a role that has expanded well beyond hiring, onboarding, and personnel administration, HR has made itself indispensable. (For example, think of how much worse the impact of a senior executive’s sudden departure would be if an HR-driven succession plan weren’t in place.)

But that status isn’t permanent. As the old saying goes, “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” And unless HR departments pay attention to those cautionary tales and learn from the mistakes of those once-dominant-but-now-failed companies, they are likely to follow the same course.

“People are our most important asset” is a claim that many companies make today and for good reason: it’s true. A company is only as good as its people. And an organization that isn’t able to attract and retain the best assets available will struggle to evolve and meet the changing needs of customers.

To help the company accomplish its goals—and maintain its own relevance—HR must learn how to cast a wide net that reaches across all areas related to talent acquisition. HR needs to think of itself as the sales and marketing department for the people who drive the company’s growth.

As you evaluate the role that HR plays in your own organization, look beyond the careers page on your website. Develop partner relationships with colleges and staffing companies, for example and help your recruiters keep their “feet on the street” by involving them in other departments where they can connect with talent.

Only by constantly searching for, discovering, and exploring new strategies for helping an organization improve its “most important asset” can HR fully fulfill its primary role—and guarantee its longevity in the business world.