What are specialists in human resources (“HR”) for?
First, there are some tasks that can be performed centrally more efficiently. The placing of recruitment advertising, payroll, pensions and staff attitude surveys, are examples. Whilst much of this work is process-orientated, it must be done.
Secondly, HR can be a specialist resource to line managers with a problem. How do I deal with persistent absenteeism or maternity leave? Can you help with this job description? How can I best implement the bonus system? Line managers find it useful to have available expert advice on topics where their own experience and knowledge is, inevitably, limited. Here, HR acts in a consultancy role, boosting confidence and the quality of decision-making. But the HR role is essentially reactive. And the better the service, the more overworked the HR consultants become.
Thirdly, HR can make a real contribution to the creation and implementation of strategy. Imagine a ‘people strategy’ that is integral to a business strategy. Chief executives often maintain that their employees are their greatest asset. But how often is this translated into a strategy which includes, not only recruitment, benefits and training, but communications with the workforce and responsibility for customer satisfaction? Here is an opportunity for HR to lead organisational change and growth, instead of spending too much time on the detail.
Research, in the UK and the US, supports the view that key people management practices increase sales, profits and shareholder value per employee. As wealth creation moves away from physical capital towards human capital, there is a great future for HR with a ‘hard edge’.
Whatever the organisation needs from HR, there are always three foundation stones: a clear definition of the HR role; a set of performance measures to gauge its effectiveness; and HR people with the experience and business sense to deliver results.
If you need help with HR, we can help.
Geoffrey Bignell, Chairman & Solicitor, Just Employment Ltd.