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Human Resorces Versus Operations, Who Will Profit?

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I have been very fortunate to wear both the Human Resources and Operations Manager hat during my career. This opportunity to wear both hats at the same time in a couple occasions has been both a educational and curse. It did help me understand the constant duel between the two branches in a business that sometimes divides and subjugates a company.

The Operational side of any business is mandated to attain success, maintain and increase productivity based on the monthly profit and loss statement, make and beat deadlines, and the bottom line is get the job done as quick and cost effect as possible. The Operations Managers out there report to the customers, General Managers, CEO’s, Board of Directors and stock holders. It’s all about successfully accomplishing the mission by whatever means necessary and every dollar you save increases your worth.

The Human Resources segment of the business in theory is not guided by the customer, big bosses, CEO’s, Board of Directors or Stockholders. They are not responsible for profits, production deadlines, or getting the job done. They are held to a more difficult and higher set of rules. They must maintain a level of compliance with federal and state laws, a balance between productivity and protection, and protect the company from the employee and the employee from the company. OK, now that I have made this statement, let me put this disclaimer, because every CEO, GM, and Manager out there is now saying “bull…..” keep reading and you will see the complete argument I am stating here.

The Human Resources Department is in constant conflict with the profit driven and result oriented Operations side of the business and keeping the company from wasting its budget and profits on turnover, unemployment compensations, accidents, workers compensation claims, rising insurance premiums and employee lawsuits. What Operations Managers forget is if you violate laws, compromise safety, and disregard compliance regulations, that huge profit the company made at the end of the month, will be taken away as the actual costs of doing business that way, come in.

So why is it considered in conflict, if the HR side of the house is protecting the overall company? There are a few theories out there. The first one that comes to mind and most Operations and General Managers will quickly deny, but the evidence is there to support it. Majority of the companies out there have woman as their Human Resources Managers and most Operations Managers are male. Yes, I know this is 2014 and the boys and girls are still fighting over the sandbox.

The next possible explanation is the same that you will find on sports teams. Players (operations) are the stars and front office & trainers (HR) are not. Players are what bring in the fans, but if it were not for the front office and trainers, there would be no place for the players to play and the fans go to watch? You could even put this on a team level, you have those players who follow the rules, make their curfews, practices, don’t deviate from the plans, and then you have those who believe they have to do whatever it takes to win, even if it’s ignoring the coach and rest of the team. It’s boring and not glamorous to follow and play by the rules, but no one gets hurt and you either win as a team or loose as one, but at the end of the day, you’re a team.

Please do not get me wrong, I am not picking sides and what the HR side of house must remember is they have to understand that Operations Managers are constantly being pushed to increase productivity at reduce costs. Tighten the budget, cut costs, and don’t waste money on anything that does not show a direct return on investment. Something many Human Resource professionals fail to do, thus throwing fuel on the fire. Operations Managers are constantly reminded that if they don’t create profits, there will be no company to keep in compliance.

When I was attending college, I had a summer job, working for a very large corporation unloading trucks. During the new hire orientation, they over-stressed safety and following company policies. Wow, I thought, they really do care about their employees. Then the next day I started on the loading docks and all those theories and policies were out the window. We were told we had to unload a crazy amount of boxes from the trucks per hour. It did not matter if it were a 1 pound box or a 140 pound crate. We were suppose to work with two people per truck, but that was not always the case because employees were constantly getting injured and calling off work or going out on workers compensation claims. I would go home almost every night bruised and sore. When the end of the summer came, I was very pleased to turn in my notice and never look back. I was lucky that I never got severely injured during the three months I labored there.

While I was employed there, it was rare to work with the same person two days in a row. Not because we had a large staff, but because of high turnover and injuries. But every night we were reminded of our productivity and on some shifts told, we were going to have to work longer than scheduled hours due to larger than normal volume of trucks and or shortage of people. Not a positive work environment and I always wondered if their profits would have not increased if they paid more attention to workplace safety and less to some arbitrary unloading number. I am here to tell you that this company, 15 years later is no longer one of the countries largest food distribution centers. Could there be a connection?

A possible reason why many don’t understand the reason Human Resources Departments have all those workplace laws is to maintain and oversee the compliance. What does that mean? If your asking that question, you must of fallen asleep during your US History classes. All of those workplace compliance laws are based on bad business practices from the past.

The logic for all these regulations go back farther than anyone remaining in the workforce today can remember. But without turning this into a history lesson: http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/aldrich.safety.workplace.us,

All I can say is that we can be very thankful for the safety and labor regulations for today. In my experience, I have yet to see anyone who has been forced to work a 20 hour work day, a seven day work week, and not paid for their over-time (unless you’re a manager). I have seen some work conditions that had questionable safety, but nothing that was blatant and dangerous. Without someone who was on their toes and making sure all labor and safety laws were being complied with, companies today would be losing revenue and profits to fines, lawsuits, and workers compensation claims.

Now if the CEO’s, GM’s, and Managers are still reading this article, you will see that while Human Resources Departments job is not profit driven in the traditional sense of the word. Human Resources is the department of your company that will save your profits and in many ways, help increase them by making sure your workplace is safe.


Your managers & employees personal needs are taken care of (hiring competent and motivated people, pay problems, benefits, and most important not harassed) and bottom line while your HR Department probably does not follow and Profit and Loss statement every month. It is not unheard of and very much a Pro-Active HR Manager who creates a monthly tracking of revenue lost and profits saved by progressive HR Policies and here is the kicker, ready for it? Working hand and hand versus fist and finger with the Operations side of the house.

The irony is when you hear the term Team Work constantly thrown around and Team Building exercises used during company trainings, but the two most important sides of the business are at constant battle with each other over the same goal. In basketball, there is a term used when two players on the same side go up to rebound the ball, “SAME TEAM.”

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