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.



  • I like the differentiation you make between push and pull functions. In my work with HR departments (and others as well) I find that push is the most problematic. It is too easy for leaders to believe that their brilliant idea is so attractive that they can “push” it through easily. They miss the fact that “pushing” requires different skills and they get massive resistance to change.

    I think you have provided a service in pointing out the distinctions.

    Rick Maurer
    www.changemanagementnews.com (blog)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, 04 April, 2007  

  • Interesting !

    I think that

    (a) Lack of pull necessitates the push &
    (b) To a large extent the 'pull' is created by (internal) customer awareness.

    The creation of the pull requires 'awareness' at two levels

    1. The customer is aware of the need/problem (e.g. I need to hire more people)
    2. The customer is aware that there a function/person in HR who can meet this need/solve this problem (e.g. there is a staffing person/function who can help me in hiring new people).

    In the case of some HR functions like staffing and compensation, the 'awareness requirements' at both of the levels are easily met and hence they become pull functions. However in the case of some other HR functions like OD/ Leadership Development/ Performance Management the awareness requirements might not be met at one or both levels. For example, while the customer (e.g. a division head) might be aware that there is a problem of high attrition rates he/she might not be aware that there is someone/some function in HR who can help him to solve this problem. In some cases (e.g. lack of synergy in teams, culture/ climate related issues, issues related to the capability levels of leaders on some dimensions etc.) the customer might not even be aware that there is a problem. Thus the pull does not get created which in turn necessitates the push, making those HR functions whose mandate is to work on these kind of needs/problems 'push functions'.

    If we pursue this line of reasoning further, it can be argued that a push function can be converted to a pull function by ensuring that the 'awareness requirements' at both the levels are met. May be today's push functions can become tomorrow's pull functions, creating an opportunity for new (push) functions to emerge which in turn can help HR to 'climb the value chain'.

    By Blogger Prasad Kurian, at Thursday, 05 April, 2007  

  • Hey nice post! Quite illuminating.

    By Blogger 'A' Rod, at Thursday, 30 August, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home