HR as custodian of policies

If someone were to ask-Who is custodian of policies in organisation, answer invariably will be – HR Department. This is a legacy issue, ancestors of HR professionals were Labour Welfare Officers, they were supposed to ensure that labour laws were followed by employer and at the same time they were on payroll of employer! How our ancestors managed this delicate balance is anyone’s guess.

Over a period of time HR has evolved, but they are unable to do away with legacy. Onus of designing, implementing and monitoring of policies is HR’s job. Somehow we believe policies will bring about desired change.

Do policies bring about desired change?

In larger context, question also can be did our legal system bring about desired change in behaviour of people?

Answer is yes and no.

Success of implementation of law largely depends on existing norms of society ( or organisation). I will give three cases.

Hindu Marriage Act was passed in 1955 to regulate personal life of Hindus, it abolished polygamy. Monogamy was by and large norm in case of Hindus even before law was passed, so there was little conflict between existing norms and law, so the law was success.

Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 was partial success, as greed for dowry was norm in society, this greed conflicted with law and law has been partial success. We hear about dowry deaths even today-51 years after the law was passed!

Most interesting case is prohibition act of Gujarat, which prohibits sale, purchase and consumption of alcoholic drinks. Indian men love to drink, and this law was totally against the existing behaviour. There was no chance of this law bringing about desired change. Men will continue to drink and their wives will continue to suffer.

While designing policies, attention has to be paid to existing norms of organisation, they will decide success or failure of policies. The norms/culture of organisation is build over years by senior level employees. Asking HR to change it overnight via policy is asking too much. HR is not and should not become policeman.




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