HR: To Help or Hinder?

The role of Human Resources (HR) typically comprises the key functions of recruitment, training, performance measures (e.g. appraisals), general workplace communications and so on. It is key for businesses to have an effective HR department to provide the organisation with structure and the ability to meet business needs through managing the company’s most valuable resources – its employees.

In order for organisations to achieve this, it is essential that HR and managers work together towards their common goal of ensuring the business achieves success. Whilst managers may want to address performance, HR can be the experts who support them in doing so by helping them better understand how best to retain and develop the talent. Ideally, HR needs to enable managers to take ownership of these key tools to ensure they can be used as effectively as possible as part of a talent management strategy.

However, often we see that whilst managers may want immediate action, HR can be inclined to urge caution, which means they can sometimes be seen as a hindrance. For example, HR needs to be considerate and tactful when giving out redundancies, cautioning employees with dismissals etc. It’s HR’s worst nightmare when threatened with a court case for unfair dismissal!

In situations like these HR could be interpreted as coming down too strongly on the side of the employee, or could be viewed as not dealing appropriately with poor performance, whereas in truth they are trying to avoid the company having to go through a tribunal or court case.

Regardless of HR being cautious or managers wanting immediate action; poor performance is a financial cost to the business. There are direct costs involved, such as loss of productivity and profit, as well as indirect costs like the morale of those employees who watch the poor performing employees not being dealt with appropriately.

Often what can be seen is a vicious circle, where HR and managers are both waiting for the other to take action. Alternatively, one party can step on the other’s toes. This might happen perhaps when HR intervene and overstep the line by taking action themselves, when really it should have been the employee’s manager’s responsibility.

HR needs to be a positive driving force within an organisation’s development and continual improvement. Yes, they may have difficult tasks to carry out and they may receive pushback, making their job harder and more stressful, but it is vital for employees to be managed correctly. With HR setting the parameters, publicising them and training managers in negotiating them, this provides managers with the appropriate skills to take the necessary action, with HR’s support. If this process is carried out with the business needs uppermost in mind, it should result in a sustainable business

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