HR's Role in High-Performing Companies

By Ron Lawrence

What creates high-performing companies? Customers, investors, and employees try to answer that question and that academics and business theorists study and debate it endlessly. In his best-selling book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, Jim Collins writes that companies can’t achieve great things without great people. But what defines “great people?” Are they the smartest, most ambitious, most aggressive?

In reality, creating a high-performing company depends first on finding and hiring the right people, then nurturing, developing, and rewarding those people to deliver “great things.” This is the role of Human Resources: managing human capital to create a healthy company culture that delivers high performance.

HR plays the complex role of an organization’s cultural steward. A steward can serve as an advocate and an assistant, as a guide and a mentor; someone who has to deliver the truth, even when it’s difficult to hear. Within this context, the best HR professionals know how to shape a company’s culture by balancing creativity, especially in finding and developing talent, and discipline.

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