HR: Who is Your Customer?

One of the issues that comes up with HR folks (and our customers) is exactly who is the primary customer of HR? The choice sometimes boils down to two options – employees or managers – or a combination of both. The side that argues employees are the ultimate customers usually says it is because everyone in the organization is an employee, even the managers. So – by providing great service to employees, HR meets the needs of everyone in the organization. It helps ensure that the people who get the work done are taken care of, get paid, get promoted, get rewarded, etc. The other side typically argues that managers are HR’s customers. Managers make hiring, retention, discipline, promotion, performance rating and an array of other decisions that HR supports. Absent those managers, the bulk of what HR does would not exist. A third camp argues it is silly to try to make a distinction. Managers and employees are two sides of the same coin, and you do not have one without the other. HR succeeds only by adequately addressing the needs of both groups.

Another group believes there is a fourth option. The organization and its mission are the real cutomers of HR. There are many instances where what is best for an individual employee (not being laid off, for example) or manager is not in the best interest of the organization. HR professionals sometimes are asked by managers to do subtly or blatantly inappropriate things – hire a relative, fire someone out of spite, tamper with documents, etc. By putting the mission first, HR can provide services and advice that benefit the organization and help ensure its survival.

What do you think?