A little over 10 years ago, when I was working as an assistant manager in my former company’s payroll department—where many of the traditional human resources (HR) functions were handled by my staff—I often wondered, “well, if we’re doing all of this stuff, what are the people in HR doing?” I often joked with my fellow coworkers that it seemed (to me) that outside of handling employee paperwork and forwarding resumes to prospecting departments, all HR did was organize parties, baseball games, company BBQ’s, and hand out the occasional basket of “whatever” every time some poor sucker reached the five-, ten-, or 15-year mark of service. “Wow, what a great job,” I thought. “I’d like to do that and get paid for it!”
While this view of an HR department was from my personal experience, over the years I’ve had similar discussions with both colleagues and professionals from various departments and industries. Interestingly enough, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again. “What do people in HR really do anyway?” they would say. Some went as far as to complain that HR seemed to care more about protecting the company’s interests than about effectively handling employee concerns.
Well, being a few years older—and hopefully a tad bit wiser—I’m now a research analyst for Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC). In this position, I’ve spent a fair bit of time finding out exactly what HR’s roll within an organization is. To my amazement, it’s a lot more than one might think.
Human Resources: Then and Now
Up until fairly recently, HR had a very administrative function. It was mainly responsible for staffing and personnel-related issues, such as recruiting and hiring, establishing employment policies, handling pay and retirement plans, and administering benefits. HR personnel spent the better part of their days updating employee files, calculating employee statistics, processing applications, training employees, and terminating the ne’er-do-wells.
Today, HR is so much more. The very people my colleagues and I used to poke fun at are now helping their organizations transform HR from the low-priority function it once was into a strategic and vital part of the business.
So what’s fuelling this sudden transformation?
It’s the fact that company executives are now beginning to understand the critical link between their people and the bottom line. To remain competitive in today’s job market, companies are realizing that they need to know more about their employees—what they’re doing, what their skills are, how they’re progressing, and (more importantly) how they will fit into the future of the business.
Company and HR executives that continue to view HR as strictly a department of administrative service, and that fail to infuse HR functions throughout the organization, will surely end up limiting their strategic growth.
The Winds of Change
Gone are the days where people stay at a job for 20 years or more. Today, it’s simply unheard of! There are so many great opportunities for talented and skilled individuals out there that job seekers are beginning to take a much closer look at what’s in it for them. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.ca, 33 percent of Canadian workers plan to leave their current positions within one year, and 48 percent expect to seek a new position within two years.
So what does that mean? It means that companies—and their HR executives—must pay heed…
People Are Paramount: Building Human Capital
Building human capital. Today, it’s all the rage—a buzzword that we hear often. But what does it really mean?
Building human capital is investing time, energy, and other resources into developing employee abilities, skills, and knowledge. Two of the main reasons HR executives must focus on building their companies’ human capital are
Employers need to focus their efforts on getting the best people in their doors in order to drive up their retention numbers. But the issue of retention should not be a priority for HR executives only; it should be a company-wide concern as well.
Employers in every industry need to respond to the changing face of the workplace, given the challenges they must meet to remain competitive internationally and to sustain a productive labor market.
That being said, company executives can no longer deny the fact that this is an area where HR can add more value—crafting corporate culture rather than processing paperwork and doing data entry.
Diversification Is Key
Somewhere, somehow, there are a few organizations getting it right. People are becoming such an important part of the big corporate picture that Canadian organizations are doing everything they can to recruit, train, and retain top talent. This includes incorporating diversity as part of their business strategy.
Diversity makes good business sense, especially for companies that generate revenue outside of the country. Hiring individuals from various backgrounds, who have a broad range of skills, and who know several languages, is a sound strategy for growth for any global business.
In a recent article published in the Montreal Gazette entitled “Embracing Diversity,” CanWest News Service columnist Derek Sankey highlights the importance of diversification in the workforce, and notes how more and more Canadian employers are recognizing the tight labor market and how they are making significant changes to the way they are hiring staff. Whether it’s related to gender, age, cultural background, or level of education, Canadian employers are tapping into all aspects of diversity. Hopefully this trend will encourage other companies across North America and beyond to adopt similar best practices.
Canadian companies recently competed to become part of the list that makes up the top 25 diversified employers in Canada. The competition aimed to recognize workplace diversity and inclusiveness initiatives, and competitors could either submit their own names or be nominated by third parties.
To see a list of Canada’s Top 25 Best Diversity Employers, go to http://www.canadastop100.com/diversity/
What Else Can Companies Do?
In order to stay competitive, companies must change their recruitment, retention, and workforce management strategies to maintain a supply of skilled personnel in a rapidly shrinking labor pool.
Some things that companies can do to significantly increase the efficiency and responsiveness of their HR department and improve the overall quality of HR management are
To better understand how you can drive up your company’s retention numbers, check out P.J. Jakovljevic’s five-part series “Thou Shalt Motivate and Reward Workforce Better,” including his article “Thou Shalt Manage Human Capital Better.” In this series, he discusses the importance of human capital management and how organizations can leverage technology to help them achieve their strategic goals.
HR staff is so much more now than the mere paper pushers they once were. They are on their way to becoming the backbone of their company’s corporate culture. And with the right executive support and the proper technology, HR departments worldwide can be the change.
So, for all of you sceptics out there (like I was 10 years ago), give your HR staff a break and the recognition they deserve—as often as you can.
One thing is for certain, they are no longer the butt of my jokes around the office.
I’ve always known about the valuable role played by HR. Seems the rest of the world is taking notice as well.
As a Human Resource Practitioner, it is heartening to see that much more emphasis is being placed on the most valuable assets of any organisation, human resources. My wish is that more organisation will eventually come to realise that without human resource their respective entities are only “existing” and will therefore give the respect to issues regarding human resource management.
It is well organised and an eye opener to many HR
personnel, and policy makers.
well done keep it up
Though I do agree with the article I think it very much depends on the industry you are working in. Having a long track record in working for Professional Services (body shopping companies) companies across Europe I know from experience that HR often in only recruitment, payrolling and other administrative functions. Only those (very few) Professional Services companies who deliver value added services know how to appreciate their staff and invest in them. For them the HR function is very important from a strategic and tactical perspective. In most cases the administrative part is being sourced.
Do u really think that Human Resorces Management can overcome the winds of change resistance with increasing unemployment, stress and disappearing family life?
Human being is selfish by nature can it think really good about others???????
Its refresh being an HR professional
This is a thought provoking and refreshing article. But my experience in dealing with some HR personnel is not very encouraging.What do you think should be the relatioship between HR personnel of a recruiting company and the talent hunters/ searchers for the company? Should the talent searchers have contacts with the technical personnel of the company to understand the finer professional skill sets, experience and cultural backgrounds required by the company which in many cases are not clearly and succintly outlined in the job descriptions provided by the HR. For example I know of cases when the HR Heads of multinational companies terminate contracts or refuse to provide requirements to the Vendors even if the Vendors request meetings officially through the HR with the technical personnel of the company.I wonder if the HR Heads of such companies have not fully understood their role to get the best personnel for the vacancies their companies have or they are worried about their own importance and do not want to expose their shortcomings to their bosses.Dont you feel they should wholeheartedly co-operate with the talent hunters and do a joint exercise along with the technical personnel as a team? Can you outline an ideal situation for the relationship with HR, Tecnical Heads and the Talent hunters and their respective roles in the recruitment process of tecnical personnel which are higly specialized, particularly in the IT sector? Thanks and regards, Dr. A.D.Monteiro
I think there is need to see HR and its functions like recruitment, PMS, OD with different angles and have to give more emphasis on achieve its real objective rather than completing some formality to update the calendar and generate some fancy report.
However HR couldn’t e stand alone, HR seeks authorities, importance and great help from management bodies to operate in more effective way.
HR provides veins to circulate the blood through out the body to keep it live, functioning and active.
Historically, HR has been challenged to quantify its value to organizations. There has been much emphasis in recent years to remedy this, and I think the results are beginning to show. As HR practitioners, we must continue to demonstrate to our business partners, in measurable, quantifiable ways, the dollar impact that our efforts are having, and will continue to have, on the organization’s financial bottom line.
this paper (hr)is good.i read. thank you.
Thank you Dr. A.D.Monteiro for your comments. Let me first say that I believe the relationship between the HR recruiters and the talent hunters/management of a company should be stronger than ever. Talent management is a key component of the HR strategy, so it is of the utmost importance that these two teams work together to achieve the common goal of developing talent that is aligned with the company’s strategic business needs. HR is often not aware of the technical skills required for particular positions within the company-especially IT positions. They know they have a position to fill and they know the high-level requirements they want in a candidate; but that doesn’t mean they always know the right “technical” questions to ask during the interview. It’s the talent manager’s job to hone people’s skills and it’s the technical personnel who understand what technical skills are required for IT-related positions, so more often than not these are the two parties that should be involved in the interview process.
HR managers should take advantage of the knowledge that talent professionals have and the expertise of their technical staff and use them to their advantage. For HR to hide their shortcoming—as you called it—doesn’t do anybody any good—including the HR manager himself/herself (in the long run).
I strongly suggest that HR should cooperate with the talent hunters and work together along with the technical personnel. Ideally, you should have all three professionals (HR, the technical heads, and the talent hunters) working together when recruiting technical personnel. By doing so, you have a better chance of finding the best-fit candidate for the job.
It was refeshing to read the article.Today the success/failure of any organisation depends mostly on the way the company treats and takes care of its manpower or rightly called Human Resource.
Therefore, the Human Resource Personnel must be clear about the company’s vision.Managing Human Resource is one of the toughest jobs and so he/she must get full support and cooperation from people at the top management.
Being an HR consultant there is still alot to do
in order to bring HRM to the boardroom. In my country HRM is still considered a by-the-way and if the company budget gets tight, HR costs are the first to be cut. This is to call on all HR practitioners to join hands worldwide, and save the profession.