We have a new company president who was pirated by the owner from a competitor. He is a supply chain expert who doesn’t believe in the importance of human resources (HR) as a support function in the organization. In a recent town hall meeting with managers, he told us that everyone can do the work of HR and it need not become a specialist function. Since I am the HR department head, it has become uncomfortable for me to work with him given his critical position against my job. I’ve been in this company for close to 20 years now. And I don’t have any plans of moving to another organization. Please give me your advice. — Bumpy Ride.
There was a young officer in the navy, after completing his training on an overseas cruise, was given an opportunity to display his capabilities at getting a ship under way. With a stream of commands, he had the decks buzzing with men, and soon the ship was steaming out of the channel en route to the Pacific Ocean.
His efficiency established a new record for getting a destroyer under way, and he was not surprised when a seaman approached him with a mobile phone call from the captain: “My personal congratulations on completing your last preparation exercise according to the book and with amazing speed at that! In your haste, however, you have overlooked one of our unwritten rules: “Make sure the captain is aboard before leaving the dock.”
As HR head, you too, must discover the unwritten rules of managing the expectations of your boss. And it appears there is an urgent need for you to level up with him and clarify his thoughts. But let me ask you. Other than small and micro enterprises with two to 20 employees managed by all-around entrepreneurs, can you name an organization in this planet that does not have a full-service, full-time HR department?
Every company needs at least one professional HR clerk or specialist as soon as its manpower complement breaches more than 20 warm bodies.
I’m not doubting your story here. But, would it be possible that you may have misinterpreted the CEO’s statement that “everyone can do the work of HR and it need not become a specialist function?” Better double check this with him. Of course, there are many management functions that should be done exclusively by line supervisors, managers, and other people managers without the intervention HR, up to a certain extent.
There is a basic, kilometric difference between a line function performed by people managers while a staff function is performed by HR managers who act as the internal expert or consultant on people management issues.
One important example is employee discipline. If certain employees become habitually absent or tardy, who will personally handle the issue? The correct answer is the concerned supervisor or manager who must advise, coach, and guide the erring workers up to a certain extent, depending on the gravity of the offense and its applicable penalty. The manager closest to the problem must promptly solve it, if not take remedial measures.
If the offense merits only a verbal admonition, this is best done by the concerned line supervisors or managers. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. Many supervisors or managers think that a verbal reprimand done in a private room with a worker-offender will suffice. But that’s not all. The concerned manager must document the oral reprimand and require the employee to acknowledge it. Unfortunately, even HR managers don’t know this basic approach. So what can you expect from non-HR managers?
Such an “oral reprimand” complete with all details about the date, time, place, and other pertinent circumstances must be documented and filed in the 201 folder of the employee. This is imperative to give management a concrete basis for what to do with the second and subsequent offenses.
If the same offense continues to be committed by the same person, and this time, it merits suspension or dismissal from employment, what would you do? This needs the specific guidance of HR that can advise the line executives on how to observe the substantive and procedural due process to protect the company against claims of illegal dismissal.
Even in the case of employee performance appraisal, the best persons to handle the task are line executives who are privy to the specific target, job standards, resources to be used and timelines. The role of HR is to provide the policy guidelines, procedures, and the forms needed in evaluating employees. HR must also act as the mediator in case of any conflict in the interpretation of appraisal policies.
Expect the worst, but prepare for all the good things that could happen, including what you can offer to the CEO. Be familiar with the latest developments in HR strategy. For one, take heed of the advice of Forbes contributor Zoe Harte, who says there are three major trends that HR must be aware of and prepare their respective organizations for this year and beyond:
One, HR must partner with marketing to define the company’s “brand.” In the war for talent, this is necessary for every organization so that it can attract, select, develop, and retain the best and the brightest.
Two, HR must create a diversity program to define a balanced workforce. In relation to number One above, the organization must be ready to accept and nurture people from all walks of life regardless of their race, religion, creed, and even sexual preference.
Last, HR must harness the advantages of a “flexible work culture.” Because of technology and the requirements of customers, organizations must promote a work environment where employees are allowed to work according to schedules that fit their lifestyles and their customers.
These are more than enough reasons for everyone to understand the significance of HR in any industry, regardless of color, culture and size. There’s wisdom in having a full-service HR department that can act as a specialist in people management matters and as a generalist when it comes to formulating a business strategy and not as someone who is limited to the safekeeping of the employees’ 201 folders.
ELBONOMICS: An excellent conversation starts with active listening.