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HR - A Multi-Dimensional Practice

All too often, HR staff focus almost exclusively on developing their technical skills around core performance areas, at the expense of other equally important business skills. Here is a sample of some of the areas we need to be competent in as HR professionals in order to interface better with the rest of EXCO and serve the whole organisation better, not just the HR department.

l Financial Literacy

We can’t mentally switch off when the financials are discussed in the management meeting. How will our organisations survive if we don’t interact with the money people? Creating and interpreting financial information has never been more critical for the HR department. Granted, when we were being groomed into this profession 20 odd years ago spreadsheets were not a common feature on our desks, but for the past several years it has become practically impossible to make any credible report whether written or verbally, without reference to the budget and the financial impact of our practices and programs. It used to be that the only numbers an HR person deals with are payroll updates to Finance and the staff profile sent to the Management report, detailing staff count and other biographic details, as well as numbers of people sent on training and related expenses. In the new dispensation we are expected to be financially literate and be able to make business sense. Without this skill, not only is our efficiency compromised but we are disempowered as players at the strategic organisational level.


l Legal Understanding

We can’t always expect to refer to the IR specialist or the Legal Counsel. Our Conditions of Service do not always address the questions that we are faced with on a particular day. Sometimes sheer H.R experience is simply not enough to help us attend to our colleagues’ requirements and expectations. Therefore, we must cultivate an understanding of litigious risk in general, so that, in our practice, we don’t expose the organisation inadvertently.


l ICT Savvy 

Given how “smart” the workplace has become – who does not have a gadget? – it is impossible to transact with our colleagues without an understanding of technology and how it automates our processes. The various technologies available can only revolutionise our work as HR when we understand and use them effectively. Imagine.

Your organisation has remote communication enabling software like Skype, for instance, yet your travelling costs relating to interviews have not been reduced. You have the latest ERP software installed, yet leave is still being applied for and processed manually. Yes, there is an ICT department, but they can only support the HR to the extent that the HR staff is ready.  We must therefore, at the minimum, acquaint ourselves with technology as it applies to our profession, and equip our workstations with the relevant ICT hard and software so that our organisations can enjoy efficiencies.


l General Organisational Skill

Having a department Secretary is a

luxury not every organisation indulges in. Moreover, it is increasingly common to find the HR department structured as a one-man service. This means, more than knowledge of the core HR skills, we have to be all to manage records, all the way from creating and coding them to disposing them at the end of their determined life cycle. Records for staff and records for the department. We also need to be good time managers. We need to demonstrate personal efficiency. We need to know how to interact with our organisational environment, as in, how to talk to decision makers without being self-effacing and apologetic.  We must develop this muscle in order to build credibility with users and facilitate delivery.

l Multi-Tasking

In HR, we know that priorities and business needs move as fast as they change. Everyone needing your service expects it NOW because to him or her, the outcomes are critical in their life TODAY. It is simply not acceptable to say to a user, the person in charge of that is on leave until next week. Regardless of your specific area of speciality in HR, you need to be able to multi-task.

Do the induction training, offer first aid, conduct the interview, write the report and explain that job profile to the role holder all in a day’s work, especially in the one-man HR department that is becoming increasingly common.

We may well ask, where does the HR work merge with customer relations and office admin? We may have to figure this out for ourselves depending on our specific realities but multi-task we all must.


l Negotiation

It is not always enough to make the presentation. We must be able to negotiate our way around the competing priorities and opposing views in order that we obtain the resources we need for the department. Many of us say we don’t like conflict and would rather just give in to keep the peace, but that approach will not yield fruit for the department.

Let us learn to negotiate, upwards, laterally, downwards, internally or externally. It can’t be avoided. Depending on the size and depth of organisation we practice, in these notes will affect us to varying degrees. There are those of us who have always been aware of this and have mastered the skills. There are those who are just learning them now. Let us find each other and grow together for the good of the profession and the benefit of the people and organisations we serve.

The H.R. Dashboard



The Parliamentary DIS

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