people, profits, and HR

I bought a car a couple of weeks ago, an experience that has inspired several blog posts. One of the things that really struck me was that, amidst a rather amazing and intimidating amount of paperwork, there was a paragraph in fine print where I had to acknowledge that the dealer might be making a profit off of the transaction.


Why wouldn’t they? Why should I have to sign an agreement saying I realize they just might benefit? They certainly don’t need my permission. No other store I’ve ever been in has been concerned that I was aware and ok that they were selling me something for (gasp) more than they paid for it. Stranger still, it was in fine print on a two foot long page of fine print – most people wouldn’t notice or realize or even care. Have car dealers had a problem of people suing when they found out the dealers weren’t losing money on the deals?

Actually the boilerplate fine print nonsense is not what has me concerned. It was more the fear behind it. Why on earth, in a capitalist nation proud of its entrepreneurial spirit, would we resent a business profiting? The doors were open, the lights, were on, the and the employees and owners want to get paid for their efforts. That money has to come from somewhere…

It really got me thinking about where else do we resent profits? How often do those of us in Human Resources think that we’re above business and dollars? That it’s not about the money, that it’s about the people? That the HR department is a humanitarian oasis in a desert of cut-throat capitalism? That we don’t need to understand the business because it doesn’t apply to us?

Here is a simple formula I like to use: Profits = People = Profits. Profits are a direct result of people and people create profits. We cannot remove people from the profit equation, so why pretend that we can? Why pretend that they are somehow separate?

Human Resources, at its very best, impacts organizational performance. We hire, develop, and retain great people who care about the business’ success, who deliver great results. We advise and help leaders get the most out of their people and out of themselves. We assist people when there are things going on in their lives that get in the way of them being great. We help create, shape, and support the very personality of the company.

Human Resources at its most mediocre doesn’t understand, doesn’t care about, or resents the connection between people and profit. When that happens, we fill the slot, check the box, file the paperwork, say “no” a lot, and become an irrelevant barrier.

It’s really our call.


  1. I agree. When HR feels they are not taken seriously perhaps it’s because they are not speaking the right language. Don’t just say we need to engage employee. Tie the benefits of engagement to the bottom line. By taking care of the people AND the profit, HR becomes recognized as a valuable, contributing member to company success.


    1. Doug! Thanks for stopping by. A business that loves to grow it’s people? Now you’re just talking crazy. 🙂

      Actually, the equation seems so simple that I often wonder where the disconnect is. I think you’ve nailed it with the “sustainable” part. Perhaps people don’t really matter that much if we’re only concerned with the next quarter or stupid wall street games, but the longer we want the business to survive, thrive, and prosper, the more important the people become.


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