BrainTrust Query: HR is More Than ‘Sick Visits’
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Getting Personal About Business, the blog of Zahn Consulting, LLC
For many employees and even executives, the HR function has been viewed as a hurdle or an impediment to be overcome by the "real" business leaders who were focused on profit, market share, sales dollars, efficiency of systems, etc.
A more progressive view comes from one of my close friends who works for a company that has nearly tripled in size over the last couple of years and has particularly recognized the strategic importance of a well-staffed and well-run HR function.
What this company has realized is that HR is not just about tending to the problems or "sick visits" to provide some intervention to correct a bad situation. It can also be about developing and nurturing the organization through opportunities to get people to excel at their current positions. It may include:
Selection criteria: Giving careful thought to the "what counts" factors for the existing job, but also for future promotion opportunities and needs.
Orientation and on-boarding: A serious concern for the company that went through tremendous expansion. They had to bring many new employees into the fold and get them to be productive quickly (or risk having the contract in jeopardy).
Mentorship: Aligning newer employees with more experienced hands to provide a "go-to resource" to answer questions.
Succession planning: As the company continues to grow, there will be additional needs in the managerial ranks, a need to "backfill" positions that are vacant as employees leave or retire, etc.
Training: The needs of the company continue to evolve and so there are needs to upgrade skills on new technology, managerial competencies, industry changes, etc. HR can meet many of those needs when properly aligned with the business units.
Career development: Assessing the needs of both the company and the individual employee to ensure that there is a fit for current and future assignments. Creating a path for people to follow in their career development is a crucial requirement of the company.
The model of HR being the "grim reaper" that is to be avoided (because it is never good news when HR is requesting to see you) is one that is changing in many organizations.
For HR to be successful requires that it be led by someone who is visionary, practical, business-minded, and not simply focused on the "forms and procedures" side of the role. While those are necessities (especially in dealing with legal issues, union contracts, filing requirements, etc.), they are best matched with someone who wishes to also provide opportunities for "well-care" or developmental experiences to allow employees to maximize their value and contributions.
Why haven’t HR departments been more successful in helping drive the career potential of employees? What sort of positive HR initiatives have you seen? What metrics should be used to value HR?