Engaging with managers in a variety of organizations I often hear, "Our people are our biggest asset!" Some really mean it and incorporate the message into their business philosophies. For others however, it seems more like a repeated mantra echoed from the latest business book they’ve been asked to read.
Organizations that really take the intent of the message to heart consider people needs with operational objectives and goals. There is a realization throughout the enterprise of the importance of aligning values associated with making a profit with those connected to how people are treated. The organization demonstrates this commitment to candidates seeking employment, newly hired employees just learning about the organization, employees already contributing and seeking ways to grow and advance, managers building leadership capabilities and employees balancing work and personal life goals. These organizations seriously appreciate the value Human Resource Management (HRM) brings to rounding out the leadership team. How about your organization? Who has the responsibility, as well as the knowledge, skills and experience, to ensure alignment of your people practices?
Today it’s not enough to assign the HR responsibilities to just anyone. That someone needs to have the background, experience and "boots on the ground" experience to earn the confidence and respect of leadership and employees. How would you assess your HR structure? Are they doing the work required to design and implement strategic practices to take your organization to the next phase in this economic recovery? If not, what’s missing?
But it doesn’t have to be. Complicating the people side of business these days are issues such as:
- Dealing with conflicts brought on by inter-generational workplace issues
- Addressing issues resulting from workplace diversity (e.g., company holiday policies)
- E-Verify requirements and properly managing issues related to illegal immigration
- Ever-changing federal employment regulations such as Workplace Accommodations to Support and Protect Breastfeeding
- Introduction and evolution of the Department of Labor’s smartphone time app designed to assist employees in independently tracking and calculating their wages
- Impact of social media on business policies, practices and behaviors
- Special employment regulations in some states (e.g., California preventing unlawful harassment retraining requirements)
- Equal pay audits and the impacts of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
- Workforce planning; maximizing talents of full-, part-time and outsourced resources
- Simultaneously addressing successful change initiatives in the operations and staffing functions
- Staying informed of the pending pro-union administration
- Monitoring and addressing the ever-changing elements of Health-care Reform
Administering HR – The Secret is in the Team
Recently I attended the POW! Awards hosted by Womenitics. One of my clients, Donna Smythe, Executive Director of the Child Development Association was among the prestigious group of women being honored. Donna was acknowledged for her leadership and successful orchestration of the organization’s transition. I was delighted to see Donna recognized for her hard work and stick-to-it-ness. Managing change in good times is challenging enough; in difficult times it really takes the right mix of commitment, passion and vision, which Donna has.
Each outstanding female leader was asked to share her story, and so many of the accounts paid tribute to having the right team to help accomplish the dream. Implementing a successful HRM structure also requires the right team. This function is responsible for linking people-related activities with the strategy of the business, and usually the work divides into two primary components.
Tactical – Every Day Administration
Tactical functions can include:
- Posting job openings
- Conducting recruiting activities and screening applicants
- Processing transactions and questions related to payroll and benefits
- Processing hiring documentation and conducting orientation sessions
- Processing performance management evaluations
- Updating the HR section of the website with timely information
- Attending job fairs and greeting potential candidates
- Planning social events
On an entirely different level, someone needs to focus on the big picture; mapping the route to the future with consideration to: profits, productivity, compliance, economic conditions, trends, the legal climate, politics and so much more. This senior position focuses on matters such as:
- Advising senior leadership of employment trends and possible impacts on the business
- Leading strategic planning efforts to develop plans (workforce planning, succession planning, training and development, executive coaching and mentoring, etc.) to achieve the vision and mission
- Mentoring and guiding managers in their development
- Staying current and knowledgeable about pending legislation
- Handling sensitive and complex employee relations situations
- Researching and making recommendations related to HRIS advancements
- Designing and facilitating management and staff training programs
- Investigating and reporting on employee complaints; working closely with legal counsel
- Ensuring compliance with federal, state and local laws and employment regulations
- Drafting and periodically updating HR policies and procedures to ensure the organization is up-to-date and progressive, not only ensuring compliance, but also re-enforcing employee engagement, retention, motivation and productivity
Usually the tactical assignments can be layered with other administrative duties until a full-time position is required. And until a senior position is required on a full-time basis, the organization is usually not well served by requiring a manager not trained in HR to plan and execute the HR function. It’s just too much to ask in today’s employment environment. I think in a situation like this, the organization is best served by hiring a part-time HR manager, or retaining a senior HR consultant to serve as an interim senior manager.
And don’t forget the support of IT and legal counsel. More and more HR tactical tasks are moving to a "self-serve" mode, where employees manage their HR needs on-line, through robust, up-to-the minute HR systems. A collaborative partnership with IT is a must.
Most HR teams today are a mix of outsourced functions, such as payroll and benefits, full and part-time employees and the engagement of an HR consultant to serve as advisor, auditor, and/or special assignment leader. The synergy of a diverse team provides compliance as well as innovation and creativity.
So What’s Next?
According to a recent article in The Economist, organizations are dusting off plans they’ve had on hold for a few years with the intention to revisit, modify them to work in the newly recovering economy and prioritize those tasks that fit within the budget constraints. With that in mind, I think this is the perfect opportunity to take a fresh objective look at operational efficiencies. Most organizations have continued to add technologies more so than people to their business operations these past few years. What impact are these technological advancements having on the current processes and structures? What additional efficiencies can be created, with these technologies in place? How do you prioritize the activities in order to maximize the return on investment?
If you’re revisiting organizational plans, doesn’t it also make sense to take a close look at how technologies, processes and organizational structure are working and to take deliberate actions to close any identified gaps?
As I said earlier, it’s impossible to have a business without people. I also believe it’s inefficient and costly to attempt to implement productive HR practices without the right talent on the team. The second half of the year is quickly approaching. Should a review of HR efficiencies be in your organization’s near future?
So this is what I’m interested in hearing from you – What’s one idea you have for how HR can assist an organization in moving beyond the recovery and into the future? What’s one experience you’ve had with diverse teams of internal and external HR professionals working together to contribute to the success of people-alignment strategies? We’re looking forward to learning from you. Please add your comment below.
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