Why “right people, right place, right time” is a dangerous approach

by Prof. Dr. Armin Trost

There is a specific definition for the term, “human resources management,” which is not only found in almost all textbooks but also in the human resources strategies of many companies. Millions of students have learned this definition by heart. Today it is the core understanding of the majority of staff working in HR departments. “The purpose of human resources management is to ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time in the organization.”

That is why the right people are approached, selected, and hired. They are placed, transferred, and promoted within the company. Employees get developed as needed, which is one reason why employees are being regularly evaluated. We do all this with the staff, so that the organization which was designed by a brilliant creator is perfectly organized and runs like clockwork.

This understanding must be quite disturbing to any employee who does not work in the HR Department. From a strategic perspective, I find this viewpoint to be extremely dangerous. This approach is totally wrong for an increasing number of companies. The reason is simple.

Employees who do not work in HR do not raise questions about the right people in the right place at the right time. They have completely different questions.

Here is a small selection: What is my next challenge, my next project? How can I reconcile professional and private life? How can I give and receive feedback? How can I contribute to the success of the company? What do others expect of me? What is my talent and how can I develop it? What alternate tasks could suit me?

Even such simple things as: Who can take over my shift? How do I find and book training? Who has the knowledge that I need now? How do I recommend a friend to work here? How can I share my knowledge?

Applicants also have questions: Why should I work in this particular business? How can I apply? What is the status of my application? Is this company suitable for me?

A focus on “the right people in the right place at the right time ” inevitably results in more attention being given to the company’s requirements rather than the employees. This is a strategy that can be dangerous in times of digitalization, demographic and social change. If your HR approach is based on the needs of the staff rather than corporate requirements, your human resources management will be quite different. Only then will your staff be at the center of attention and treated as “your most important asset.” Orienting around your business requirements is basically fine. But you have to be able to afford it. How many companies have thought about?