Q&A with Human Resources Pro Edwin Bowman

No matter the size of your business, your human-resources department can either help lead it to great success—or great disaster. Just ask Edwin Bowman, founding principal of White-Plains-based BowmanBecker Consultancy, LLC. Bowman, whose past clients include DuPont, Gillette, and Johnson & Johnson, sat down with us for a quick cup of Joe (“hot and black!”) to discuss HR’s evolving role.

What are the most common HR mistakes new businesses make?
New businesses tend to undervalue the impact of the human-resources function itself. HR is not there just to make everybody happy and hire people.
How does a company become welcoming to all types of employees?
You demonstrate it. I don’t ever recall hearing, ‘We do not believe in equal employment opportunity.’

Do different companies face different HR issues?
Every company has its own culture and its own way of doing things, but I often refer to the ‘diagonal slice,’ something that is common in all of them: Regardless of the kind of business, we’re still dealing with the issues of people. Once you make the investment in talent, you certainly want to get a return on your investment, so retention is a real issue. No one wants to feel as though they are a training organization for someone else.

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So how can companies retain employees?
Employee engagement: the extent to which people are more prone to run to work than to run away from work. Make sure that supervisors and managers understand how to supervise and manage people. Each manager doesn’t need to be an HR professional, but they should be intelligent enough to consult with their HR people on how to deal with certain situations. People don’t leave their companies; they leave their bosses.

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