HR practitioners need to start asking themselves how HR can effectively contribute to the business. Is HR really adding value? asks Denis W Barnard
I have often wondered why it is that if HR needs to account for its existence, senior company officials continue to appoint HR staff in the first place? In many cases each organisation seems to have its own flimsy agenda for this, with specifications ranging from company scapegoats, welfare workers, corporate axe men and backstops for feeble management.
Now, after decades of trying to justify their own existence, HR practitioners should be asking themselves the big questions: what are the key areas where HR can effectively contribute to business; should HR be represented at board level - and why?
At the heart of any responsible business there has to be an infrastructure of contracts and policies that have a facility for rapid updating on a continuing basis. Apart from the compliance and clarity that these provide, there is also the increasingly important issue of risk containment, given the escalating scale of remedies for cases of failure by an employer.
Any manager of any function neglects this aspect at their peril, because one lost case can spawn a raft of like actions. To add to these core necessities should be a compensation and benefits system that works for company and employees alike, and a serviceable information system for management reporting.
Second, it is essential to have a plan and operable procedure to develop the people you have, and future ones - unless you are in a business that can afford to lose staff and replace them at no cost. Most managers want stable departments with staff who have been around so long they can do the job blindfolded.
What they don't understand is that they are not maximising the talents of those people who have them and want to move on, and are losing the opportunity to introduce new blood in the entry-level jobs.
Third, an honest appraisal system coupled with a realistic development programme is needed, realising that there will not always be room for everyone further down the line, certainly not for those who don't make the grade. The desired result will be better people moving through, up - and on occasion out - of the organisation in a