UNDERSTANDING THE HR FUNCTION IN AN ORGANISATION

The strategic role of Human Resources (HR) in organisations has always been a significant aspect of the success of every organisation

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In recent times, with the expectations of greater personal expression in the workplace, and the ever accelerating change in the workplace the demands on HR have become more onerous. Whether the functions are incorporated within other disciplines or in the domain of HR executives, whether operating in an integrated organisational configuration or in a matrix structure, the elements are all needed. What is apparent in today’s fast changing business environment is that these elements need to be understood and recognised for their contribution to the success of organisations.

Traditional roles

The traditional roles of the administration of people, pay and policies (from remuneration to rewards or from benefits to entitlements), training and development, workforce engagement, hiring and firing have long been recognised in compartmentalised functions within the HR domain.

Emerging roles

In more recent times the naming of HR as a business partner has become more common in a measure to give recognition to the more intricate roles of HR.

The role of HR in development of Business Strategy is emerging as a critical function in structuring the manpower needs around the ever-tightening requirements of labour legislation. Many people blame labour-friendly legislation as a deterrent to new business development and economic growth. It is the role of HR to structure the flexibility of labour around the organisation’s needs to make business effective. The mix of permanent, part time, outsourced, in-sourced and contracted labour is what allows a business to meet the requirements of legislation and provide the manpower it needs when it needs it. The more complex the legislation, the more specialised manning management becomes, requiring innovative thinking linked to skilled negotiating abilities.

The modern term of Talent Development takes us much further than Training and Development. The matching of people skills to future business needs requires a longer term strategic programme that encompasses internal processes such as skills development, employment equity and mentoring as ingredients to effective succession planning. This process also requires external strategies such as internships, learnerships, relationships with tertiary institutions and engagement with community organisations in order to provide a meaningful pipeline of talent to supplement the internal resources in organisations.

Changed expectations from employees towards employers requires a vigorous Performance Management structure to ensure that job outputs are aligned to organisational needs. This must ensure the organisation clearly communicates its expectations and that performance is regularly evaluated, rewarded or remediated.

The success of organisations relies heavily on the relationship between the Manager or Supervisor and the employee. This is in this area where the intangible benefits of labour motivation works. It has long been recorded that the most frequent reason given for people leaving organisations is the relationship with their boss. Effective Mentoring Programmes are needed, not only for new employees and those on talent development programmes, but for all key performers to ensure that a healthy working relationship exists between employee and supervisor.

Finally, there is the critical role of Communications. Getting the right message across is central to business strategy and there needs to be a structured, planned communication programme to keep employees aware of organisational values, standards and performance. As significant in today’s expectations of corporate citizenship is the programme of communications to the communities in which the organisation operates.

These are the expectations of the 21st Century HR role players. It requires a team of internal and external professionals to coordinate these aspects into a structured programme of people management to ensure the organisation’s success.

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