HR’s destiny lies in its own hands

People, it seems, are not flavour of the month. While the government plans to sideline people reporting in company reports, despite the recommendations of its own taskforce, the Department for Work and Pensions has left staff feeling under-valued as it implements a massive change programme.

The findings of the survey make for grim reading. Of the 57 per cent of staff who took part, only one in five said they felt valued at work. For only 18 per cent of staff to have faith in senior management suggests that there is a serious rift between the top and bottom of the organisation. Even worse, only 15 per cent of DWP staff feel managers will act to remedy the problems identified in the survey.

Regardless of whether HR has a voice on the board, or is invited to contribute people information for use in Operating and Financial Reviews (see page 1), its fundamental role is to ensure that people policies make sense and that managers are given the tools and the training to do the job properly. Clearly this is not happening at the DWP.

If HR is to be taken seriously as a business function, it is in just this kind of situation that it needs to rise to the challenge and take charge. Ensuring that managers are communicating with staff and doing what they should be doing to help the organisation run more efficiently must be a key part of the HR role.

The identification, development and appraisal of managers is critical, not only for the wider organisation, but for the development of HR as a function.

But how can HR push policy down the line if the line is not capable of making it work? No wonder top-level executives and, indeed, the government, regard HR as something that can easily be ignored.

Time and again the best HR policies fall down because managers lack the skills to put policy into practice. In the case of the DWP, the situation has been exacerbated by a huge change programme – a scenario that requires senior managers with vision and leadership and highly skilled managers who can make the vision a reality by bringing staff with them.

By Martin Couzins, acting deputy editor

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