How HR professionals can prove their worth

Measuring the value of people – or human capital management – is all the vogue in HR circles at the moment. And while many HR managers are still getting to grips with measuring the value of employees, they are also being asked to prove their own worth.

Measuring the value of the HR function itself can be difficult, but an sensible first step is to sample employee opinion with a questionnaire.

However, it is important to ensure questions are worded properly because, as one HR professional put it on the Personnel Today Networking Forum: “Obviously we want our staff to be honest with us but, by the same token, we do not want to invite them to attack us.”

Staff surveys

Royal Bank of Scotland, which has won awards for its human capital management policies, questions three  groups of staff about the full range of HR activity.

“We want to make sure HR is hitting the spot at all the different levels,” said Greig Aitken, head of HR research and measurement at the bank. “We separate them out, because otherwise it would be a massive survey.”

The bank conducts an annual online “customer survey” of 5,000 employees, questioning the effectiveness of its products, such as payroll and flexible working.

It also issues a separate questionnaire to front-facing HR staff about the effectiveness of its group HR teams in delivering services such as reward, resourcing and development, human capital and policy.

And finally, Royal Bank of Scotland surveys executives and senior management about the effectiveness of its HR business partners.

Independent analysis

To ensure anonymity and objectivity it employs Saratoga, the human capital arm of professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, to collate and present the results of each survey.

“The results are benchmarked against other companies, including UK banks, so that each department has tangible results about how well it is performing,” Aitken said.

A different method

Other experts believe in splitting questionnaires by subject area, rather than respondent.

Kari Lahti, a partner at HR consultancy Psycon, has developed questionnaires for HR specialists in hundreds of Finnish organisations asking line managers questions related to:

  • HR operations and services 
  • personnel development
  • the competencies and ways of working of individual HR specialists or managers.

The evaluation scale ranges from one (much to improve) to seven (very good).

“From part three, each HR specialist is given a personal feedback report,” Lahti said.

“From parts one and two, the feedback reports are given both the HR specialists and line managers of the organisation. And the HR function in each organisation is given its own feedback report.”

For those worried about being criticised in their employee surveys, Aitken has a message: “You have to bite the bullet sometimes.”

“If you are framing the questions so that you only get closed answers, you have to question the value of doing it in the first place.”

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