The purpose of the Human Resources department is to enhance organisational success by looking after the organisation’s most important component: its people. No other department has the range of responsibility from the executive suite to the casual labourer, from the head office to the most remote sales office, from the senior scientist to the new graduate.
This mission is more than challenging, particularly in the current economic climate. Whether a business from the private sector trying to prosper (or even survive) or a governmental or voluntary sector agency almost certainly trying to do more with less, additional expectations will inevitably fall on the Human Resources function. In that regard, common issues for the Human Resources department will certainly include the following five:
• Managing change. A role of Human Resources is the facilitation of processes or addressing HOW the organisation functions. No organisation can maintain the status quo if it is to survive and prosper. There may be the need to grow, reduce or reorganise and redeploy the workforce, all critical HR tasks. Human Resources will be central to this process of continual change and dealing with the inevitable restructuring.
• Leadership development. Most large organisations have consistently, over a number of years, identified leadership as a key challenge for future success. Some maintain leaders are born while others say leadership can be learned. The truth likely lies somewhere in between and must be addressed by HR. And whether the leaders are identified and nurtured internally or brought in from the outside, if effective leadership is not in place, the organisation founders.
• Employee relations. Motivated, dedicated, responsible employees are the heart of any successful organisation. And ensuring the workforce feels it is treated fairly is another challenge. This may include dealing with unions but also involves policy development and administration, meeting legal requirements and more.
• Performance management. An effective performance management system begins with hiring the best employees. Next they must be inducted into the organisation, understand their duties and be trained. Then performance must be assessed with good performance being rewarded and substandard performance improved. The challenge of implementing and maintaining such a performance management system is more than daunting.
• Showing that the HR function adds value to the organisation. Many organisational functions have readily assessable metrics: sales volume, quality, customer satisfaction, efficiency and so on. Many HR functions are difficult to quantify. How can the resources spent on leadership development be justified? Is reduced employee turnover a result of good HR systems? Does the system of compensation and benefits add as much value to the company as possible? All these functions are critical but difficult to assess and also difficult to justify, particularly when the organisation goes through financial difficulties.
Although this list of issues is certainly not all encompassing, there is little doubt of the criticality of these issues. For the organisation which is well led, can manage change and has positive ways of motivating and valuing its workforce, will also certainly have an effective Human Resources function.
This guest post was written by AON Hewitt total rewards team who are well placed to support its clients on total reward. With experts in all the constituent areas, AON has consultants who can see across the gaps that often exist between specialised areas to produce a joined-up plan that matches clients’ needs.