This week Personnel Today puts Mike Young, HR director of Avaya, in the hot seat and asks four fellow directors what they think of his function. Does HR play a strategic role in the boardroom at the global communications network provider? Or, does it just provide back office, administrative support for its 21,000 staff? Young is confident of his team's contribution to the bottom line. But Roisin Woolnough finds out if the leading players at the company agree
Tanya Steele marketing director for Western Europe
What value does HR bring to business?
HR understands the totality of business and what every department is doing. You can have a detached discussion with HR about your actions because there is someone who understands the overview of the organisation and has a non-aligned view.
What does it bring to your own department and you as a manager?
I need HR to look for the best possible practical solution to problems - if there are issues around the calibre of your team, for example. People often see these as soft issues but I believe they are crucial. HR needs to be proactive in providing you with feedback as a manager and on how you are running your department.
What is its role in the boardroom?
It has a strategic role to play at Avaya and is not a back office function. HR people need to be as savvy with business results as the finance director. They have to be involved in the business and have an opinion on it - not just chipping in about employee attrition rates.
Have you encountered any problems with HR?
I've consistently seen issues in sales around the commission payments going through on time, plus standard hygiene factors such as paying correctly or getting offer letters to candidates on time. When there are tremendous daily pressures on you as a manager and you have to intervene on something you view as an HR issue, you can form a negative image of the profession.
How has HR changed in the past five years?
It has moved away from admin. I miss the old-fashioned HR function as there is more form-filling now which we all hate - but I would not give up the increased strategic support received as a result.
How does it need to change now and in the future?
HR needs to do more internal marketing of the function. It needs to attract new recruits