The overlap between the HR function and the operational roles will always be there.
This is of great assurance at times, when line managers want to be certain that the decisions they take are ‘safe’ from the labour relations point of view.
But there are times when line feels like HR is a hindrance, especially when employment policy and process prescribes various steps to be taken before a decision is made, and where the decision is made, that it has to be aligned with a certain structural consideration, all against the attitude of a manager who feels that he or she is definitely sure of what he or she wants to do and that it is a waste of resources to go through the motions just to satisfy HR.
To give an example, the line manager has identified the perfect candidate for the vacancy he knows is coming up in his department, and, he has had a conversation with that candidate about salary expectations and all that, and basically, it’s just a question of waiting for the incumbent to resign and leave this month. The writing is on the wall so why beat about the bush?
From the HR perspective, although the perception may be that the writing is on the wall, constructive dismissal is ‘a thing’ as they say nowadays.
If the incumbent becomes aware that his replacement has been contracted even before he resigns, that is tantamount to being fired, and if the employer is challenged at law, there would be no defence, and instead, the employer would be penalised.
The HR department would have gone to lengths to position the organisation as a great place to work in order to attract talent to come and deliver on the mandate, and the quality of industrial relations, the climate in the working environment, and the sense of job security all contribute to how the organisation is viewed.
In turn, how the organisation is viewed determines the quality of employees that respond to vacancy adverts, and how many of those applicants actually accept your job offers. So allowing your emotions and personal judgement to drive how you recruit staff to your department just makes you appear subjective, and, once your preferred candidates take up office, they carry the weight of being ‘your people’, making it a challenge to integrate into the team.
And, as a leader, honestly having brought someone into the organisation outside policy guidelines just undermines your ability to manage your recruits within policy parameters.
And speaking of structures. Everything from who reports to who, who does what, what is paid
Things just work on the strength of the manager’s personality and the team’s sense of survival. The manager makes decisions based on personal criteria. What is your relationship with him or her? Depending on that, you can get benefits from flexi-time, company car and everything really. And when the relationship changes, you just get stripped of those benefits and the environment becomes hostile, at which point you know your replacement has already been identified.
And maybe that approach works in certain industries and/or markets, and yes, let’s acknowledge that there is no ‘right’ culture, there is instead just an enabling culture, but from an HR perspective, operating without set policies does not promote adherence to best practices, nor does it assure compliance with applicable legislation. Thus, there are more disgruntled and disengaged members than there are in a more structured environment, such that, even if that manager thought he or she has a committed team, it would be a shock to learn through a survey, for instance, that employees are just working there because there is no available alternative, that there is no loyalty and no interest from the employees in any of the retention programmes.
But the tragedy is that people who have worked in these environments tend to gravitate towards similar cultural settings even if they were to change jobs.
It just goes to show my colleagues in industry that, even as many of us have progressed with all the developments and automations that have evolved in the field over the last few decades, there are still environments where HR is not yet fully understood.
There is still some work to do towards demonstrating to the other employers in our markets (the whole market is a talent pool and by raising the level of HR practice across the board, as a possible future employer of staff who presently work elsewhere, you are indirectly grooming your own future talent), so, yes, there is still work to be done in addressing the view that HR is either a hindrance to delivery or it is a place to send difficult colleagues, so that we all come to view and understand the role of the HR department as a brand manager and a performance driver at both the strategic and operational levels of the organisation.