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Is Your House in Order?

January 18, 2011


Over the years I’ve developed a visual of what organizations are and what HR’s role is within the organization.  It may be somewhat simplistic, but I picture a house.  The steps that we go through when building a house and then turning that “house into a home” are somewhat similar to the role of HR in an organization:


We start by laying the foundation.  All of the legislation, regulations, statutes and executive orders are the basement – or the slabs and pillars for those of us in south Louisiana, where we don’t have basements. These are the things that support the house, and lay the basis for what we do and how we operate.


Next we define the style of our house – is it a craftsman, a Tudor, a post-modern?  We construct the house by putting in place the beams and joists and bricks and mortar. These are the operational and HR policies, procedures and our “ways of doing” things.  We craft policies to align with the foundation – those things we must ensure are done (EEO, AA, Sarbanes-Oxley…).  Yet we still, at this stage, put our personal stamp on it and aesthetically make it our own.  This framework and style become our organization’s policies and ways of operating.


Our next step is to furnish and decorate our house.  When the framework is in place – the operational model – we need to decide how to fill our house and bring it to life.  Do we have plush couches and sectionals or do we have formal Queen Anne chairs?  Do we use a soothing pastel color palette, mellow earth tones, or display flamboyant and vibrant colors? We build up off the foundation, and put up the walls in order to enclose and capture that which makes us unique – our culture.  We determine how we will “live” those values, implement our policies, and spend our time within the walls of our house.   Our furnishings and decorations tell a story about us – our likes and dislikes, our interests, what’s important to us – these are the expression of our culture to all those who are within the house.


And lastly, we populate our house with people.  We have people who live in our house (employees) and we also have visitors – applicants, vendors, past employees, the public.  What are they experiencing when they step into our house and/or stay for a while?  A Victorian mansion and a log cabin may start with similar foundations, but think how differently you feel in each environment.  In your house do people take off their shoes? Slouch in a chair?  Never use the formal dining room? Wear a suit and tie at all times?




HR professionals and leaders are the architects, designers and hosts of that organizational house.   We may help with the initial design or, if we move into an existing house, we may be a part of the renovation.  We pick out the furniture and paintings and window treatments that capture the fundamental mood of the house – or, as is more often the case, we come into an already furnished house and remodel and redesign and update the furnishings. We bring in new items to replace that which is old or outdated. We interact with all the people who live there, and with many of the visitors.  We’re the hosts making their stay comfortable.


Our house is lived in by people who are important to us, and we play a key role in the construction, maintenance and upkeep.


So don’t let your house turn into the one with an unaligned foundation, cracks in the sidewalk, and outdated décor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol McDaniel permalink
    January 18, 2011 7:05 am

    Great analogy, Robin!

    One of the great things about this is there is always a good time for some good ole Spring Cleaning too! Just because it’s not spring doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean out the dust and cobwebs every now and again!

    We tend to collect things because thy have perceived value or sentimental meaning to them and thus the TLC hit “Hoarding”.

    The last thing we want to do is have to respond to an issue, candidate and or other problem, only to have to get through the garbage just to answer the front door!

    Great Post!

  2. January 19, 2011 2:54 am

    This is a very strong analogy of what HR and organizations in general should be. In some organizations, however, there is no architect and HR winds up being the person who runs around trying to get people to use coasters.

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