HR needs to raise its voice to stay in the loop

Outsourcing is one of those topics that always makes emotions run high, as staff may fear for their jobs or fret about what the changes will mean for them. Best practice suggests that workers at the coalface should be consulted and kept informed of how things are progressing – so no-one receives any nasty shocks.

That’s why situations like the one we have outlined in our front-page news story this week – where the HR department was kept in the dark about a management decision to outsource recruitment – raise several important issues for HR.

You could, of course, argue that the buck has to stop somewhere, and that senior managers are paid to make tough decisions for the good of the business. But staff further down the chain are the ones doing the day job, and are probably in a good position to offer some informed insights as to whether a new initiative would actually work in practice.

There would be uproar about this in the public sector. A couple of years ago, the decision not to consult over a controversial IT outsourcing project prompted an industrial dispute and some extremely uncomfortable PR for Swansea Council. The lesson learned back then was that senior managers should consult – especially with the HR department.

HR professionals make change happen in an organisation, so it’s only right that they have a say in shaping those changes right from the start.

And that also means having a role in how those changes are communicated. Our HR Strategy Survey (Personnel Today, 16 May), revealed that 83% of HR practitioners believed that communication would be extremely or very important in the next 12 to 18 months.

That means communicating not just initiatives that need to be filtered down from the top, but articulating the value that HR adds to the organisation. With yet another survey showing how dissatisfied chief executives are with HR (page 6), it’s clear the profession still has some way to go in getting its own communications right.

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