I started working in this field as an H.R Graduate Trainee in 1998. It was in a parastatal. You can estimate the staff count. I remember being shown how to update leave records. Manually.
Imagine creating and maintaining that many staff records manually. Imagine the whole department relying on only one computer, which was operated by the HR Manager’s secretary. And today with all the various gadgets available, we barely need desktops.
How things have changed! As an HR practitioner, what I value most is that HR is now recognised as a key strategic partner and enabler of organisational performance in the business.
Far from being cosmetic, the change in name from personnel management to human resources to human capital accurately reflects our evolution to an integral part of the corporate landscape.
More than the transactional functions we are traditionally associated with, as a profession we have been talking strategy and governance for years now. And what does that mean? How does HR get involved in strategy and governance?
Regardless of the industry we operate in, or the size of our enterprise, HR governance demands alignment with corporate strategic priorities, and, compliance with legal/ethical provisions including and especially in areas such as policy and procedure, risk management, and prevailing value propositions. HR professionals are facilitating and even driving the strategy and governance conversation in their respective organisations since without it, frankly, there is no HR. That is how far the profession has evolved.
And because of this, it is imperative that all HR professionals today are able to cultivate and maintain an operating environment that will enable their compliance to corporate strategy and governance.
We can break it down to its smallest components. The recruitment process for instance.
What checks and balances do you have to ensure your outcomes are relevant and aligned to the corporate scorecard? The offer letter, the job description, the terms and conditions of employment.
Do they exist and are they compliant with policy provisions? Let’s talk about selection – are you proficient with the competency-based interview format or the increasingly popular psychometric assessments?
How do you measure and reward performance? What about talent management in your organisation? How do you understand diversity management? It is so easy to say, “we are an equal opportunity employer”, until you find yourself having to balance the realities involved.
Do you realise that an indigenous Motswana who was born, bred and educated in Botswana could go overseas long enough to be called an imported skill and recruited as such?
So when you say expatriate workers, versus citizens, can you see how this is not so clear-cut anymore? Take too the emergence of the LGBT community and related self-identity issues - how could this affect how we categorise biographic data and report on staff profiles, for instance?
In spite of all these strides, there are still some amongst us who have to educate our stakeholders about the role and value of the HR function.
There are still environments that are not conducive to HR practice. For instance, where is the HR position on your organisational structure, and what authority does the department/function have to make and implement decisions? What kind of resources do the department/function command?
If you were to, for instance, in keeping with global trends, advocate for digital workplaces which are remotely accessible to a virtual team of often ‘solopreneurial’ millennials, do you have the positional influence to make this proposal, get it sponsored financially and, to see your employment policies and operating processes written to accommodate the practice?
At the end of all of our processes, as HR professionals, how do we report? Do we know how to convey our various HR metrics in the kind of business language that will keep us in the boardroom?
This is the space where we will unpack issues like those outlined above, and share our observations and experiences, and occasionally, even get opinions from the policy makers. See you next week.
*Shameela Winston is a human resource professional and psychometrist in private practice