HR departments more crucial to business today


A company’s human resource department (HR) plays an essential role in the success of business. It oversees the management of the organisation’s human capital, which, without doubt, is indispensable to productive business activities and the efficient delivery of services to customers and stakeholders. In this regard, HR managers are charged with the responsibility of providing both leadership, and support to any organisation’s line management.

A company’s community of interest must be well managed by its HR lead. He or she should harness and assess business and industry knowledge, social interests and best practices of stakeholders in determining policy needs. Such determinations will better ensure accuracy and completeness of policies and manuals, and remove the dreaded process of guess work. Since these findings are all fluid and ever changing, a process of constant environmental scanning can be well assisted by line managers to ensure company needs do not lag.

It is also HR’s role to offer support when it comes to policy implementation, as well as the efficient execution of the company’s strategy, plans and processes. This support is vital in assisting other department’s decision-making. A good example of this would be planning the introduction of a line of new products with the sales department. Will there be a need for an additional salesperson, what would be the job description and are there any technical requirements? Such a new line of products may even necessitate the restructuring of the sales department.

HR’s roles as both lead and support are now even more crucial. It must, for example, determine if a work-from-home strategy and policy is needed and which departments are best suited. What other needs may be required, such as laptops, and should travel, stationery and phone allowances be adjusted?

In our local environment, HR acts as a negotiator in a unionised environment and ensures compliance with labour laws. Because our industrial relations environment is so heavily regulated, I have worked with HR managers who spend most of their time on disputes and IR related matters rather than on the developmental side of the company’s human capital. This can put any company in a disadvantaged position as less time is spent on maintaining and organising the workforce, performance management, determining training needs and coaching, overseeing organisational leadership and driving and managing corporate culture.

HR is at the centre of conflict resolutions. Line managers work with HR to find the best solution based on the severity of the issue and the employee’s involvement. Workplace conflicts and disputes are inevitable given there is a mix of cultures, work styles and personalities. The need for firefighting and mediating a workplace disruption can occur in any department, and at times things can become so contentious that they may require an investigation and the initiation of disciplinary procedures.

HR is charged with developing the systems for monitoring, sustaining and improving human capital productivity and performance and relies heavily on line management for their implementation and continued relevance. As the gatekeepers of the corporate culture, HR must lead by example the organisation’s relentless thrust and uncompromising reliance on honesty, fairness and transparency in all its dealings. The use of industry knowledge to the company’s benefit is vital in this regard and therefore allows HR to insist on formal processes for suggestions, feedback and even whistleblowing to know of any internal abuses taking place.

Over the last decade or so a new role has landed on HR’s lap and that is to act as the unit that oversees employee surveillance. Yes, I said it. Phone call monitoring, cameras, social media postings, web browser history trackers, email and intranet tracking are some of the methods and tools now available. This must be done legally and not cross the lines of an employee’s right to privacy, and therefore a full disclosure should be shared with all employees, especially during the onboarding process. While most times these processes are used to catch errant behaviours, they can also be used to determine some gaps. As an example, if a good employee is job hunting then this may be a chance to investigate the reason and an opportunity to prevent losing exceptional talent.

Business processes and procedures are constantly being updated, especially in the age of ever changing technological innovation. Futuristic HR departments will work with IT to ensure its employee database is secure and remotely accessible. Predictive analytics learn from existing data and are core to determining which employee is likely to leave and which sales strategy works best. Artificial intelligence such as chat bots and voice recognition software are technologies being used today and quickly becoming best practices.

A company’s human capital is its inventory of competencies, creativity, knowledge, and personality attributes, performing to create and produce economic value for shareholders. This capital arranged across departments is considered to be indispensable to business activities, therefore, the HR management process and strategic planning should consider future trends and create the right environment to retrain, attract and motivate people across the span of the organisation.

So again, not for the first and final time I will ask, when will international accounting systems finally acknowledge the value of human capital as an asset on the company’s balance sheet? It’s more than time.

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