Engage Energize Evolve

April 02, 2007

Push v/s Pull HR

Amidst all the HR generalist and specialist debate that continues – I’m wondering if we can shift our focus lens view things from a slightly different angle.

Clearly, based on the various functions that HR performs, there are push functions and pull functions.

“Pull” functions are those HR functions, which customers will flock to, like bees to a honeycomb. They can’t get enough of you, their day starts with a mail to you and ends with a mail to you – you are more or less at the center of their existence. Recruitment and Compensation are the two biggest examples of “Pull” functions. And ofcourse, HR Generalists. Managers in these functions will never complain that the business does not give them time, it will always be the reverse – can’t they get off my back? The business will keep asking them for complicated reports, detailed analysis, status updates, and what nots – you are made to feel very much “in demand” and “wanted”. You will never have to justify your existence to them.

functions are those functions which you have to “sell” to your customer. Performance Management, OD, Leadership Development – to name a few. You will have to create a business case which convinces your customers of the value add of your function. Skepticism, cynicism, dismissal – these are only a few of the “not so nice” reactions you will meet with. The customer will never seek you – it is you who must seek him / her. Ask for meetings, call frequently, follow up regularly. In short, you will have to justify the legitimacy of your existence.

Given this classification, I would say even the skill sets required of HR professionals would then differ, depending upon whether they are in “push” or “pull” functions., irrespective of whether they are generalist or specialist roles.

In a pull function, speed of response, ability to provide closures, negotiate with your customers (on deadlines, decisions, process, etc), manage / juggle multiple, sometimes conflicting demands, assume primary importance.

In a “push” function, packaging and selling skills, ability to engage leadership teams and key stakeholders, and an almost dogged pursuit of your goals are crucial to succeed.

Both functions require an equal mix of brain work and leg work, both need you to be completely clued on to your business, and both demand that you be credible.

So maybe the next time – instead of wondering whether you are more suited for a generalist or a specialist profile, ask yourself instead whether you like to be “pulled” or “pushed”. You might view your choices in a different light.