Home » Management Tips with Babatunde Fajimi » What Human Resource Managers Really Do (Part 1)

What Human Resource Managers Really Do (Part 1)

Contrary to popular belief, human resource managers do not exist to simply “hire and fire” in the organization.  There are general managers and chief executive officers who in their value system and work culture consider employees as dispensable resource. They assume their human resource managers are performing excellently well once they subscribe to their “hire and fire” doctrine.

Two things happen in this organization. Firstly, it will become noncompetitive, unproductive and unhealthy place to work primarily because of the second reason. This second reason is that your human resource managers are clearly under-performing, thus dis-enabling instead of growing the business.

Unless such organization properly refocuses its searchlight and punctiliously look at what the human resource managers are currently doing relative to what they should do, the organization may soon become a dinosaur.

Although human resources managers have their classical job descriptions, a good number of them may not be able to confidently articulate the strategy that drive human resources management core deliverables thereby making their duties central to the overall business architecture of their organizations. Some do not even have standard job descriptions giving the excuse that they are already busy doing the job hence the possession of the job description is a mere formality.

The foundation for the success of human resource managers is the formulation of robust job descriptions that recognize the specific business needs of their organizations and harness the full potentials of the core advisory and functional roles of the competent human resource managers to deliver measurable value in a mutually rewarding manner to both the employers and employees.

Many things go wrong when the human resource managers do not have the right job descriptions. The organization suffers. The business falters and customers slip away. The employees grumble, and motivation level is low. The human resource managers themselves may struggle with work-related depressions and other psychosomatic disorders.

Of course, the human resource managers know that things are not going on right, but they neither have the will power nor competences in the presence of their management to reverse the downward spiral. They reluctantly coast along until they crash both their career and the department. The way out of the wood is to rethink what the human resource managers really do in the organization.

Like all other managers in the organization, the human resource managers have a responsibility for the five management functions of planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. They also perform the roles of team leaders, planners, organizers, cheerleaders, coaches, problem solvers and decision makers.

Unlike the other managers, however, the human resource managers play a sublime role of integrating all these responsibilities whilst serving as a critical link between the initiation of strategy and its implementation, the business and the people, evolution of processes and procedure, and its intermix with culture, as well as systems and transformation.

This linkage confers the role of anchor in strategy, partner in business, change agent in transaction and stabilizer in trade output in the human resources management function of management and leadership. The complexity of human resources managers’ dynamic relationship with the management and employees is simplified in the evolution and deployment of the workable (and not necessarily right) tactics to implement the human resource strategic input to the organization’s business architecture.

Consequently, it behooves the human resource managers to free themselves from the rudimentary tasks of pursuing a lopsided functional duty which makes it look as if they are just there to “hire and fire” and as such every Tom, Dick and Harry can come into the profession without the requisite training, experience and certification.

In order to understand what human resource managers really do, let us preview their roles and functions from the linkage perspective of design and execution. The design involves the initiation of strategy as an integral part of management or a member of the management committee.

The human resource function is central to organizational development because employees in any business enterprise are the main source of its competitive advantage. The relegation of this function to a secondary place in the scheme of things means that the organization will always do catch up with competition and can never have innovative workforce to lead its onslaught against competition in the marketplace.

Execution will involve the implementation of processes, policies and programmes that reflect the strategic direction of the organization and the cultural alignment of employees to its vision, mission and shared values.

That said, the capabilities and competences of the human resource managers to fuse these deliverables into core advisory and functional roles on one hand, and discharging their duties in Henry Mintzberg’s three-dimensional set of ten roles in the informational, interpersonal and decisional categories on the other remain the most potent resources for purposeful performance of human resources service delivery in the organization.

Generally speaking, there are four core advisory and five functional roles in human resource management today. These advisory and functional roles inter-relate with each other across the spectrum and enable the human resource managers to seamlessly switch from design and execution.  The core advisory roles are four perspectives namely strategy, business, transactional and trade On the other hand, the core functional roles are strategic, line, coordinate, staff and service functions.

The core advisory roles enable the human resource managers to envision and articulate a blueprint of actionable plan that comprises a mix of strategy, processes, procedure and programmes that is tailor-made to fit into the corporate goals of the organization Human resource managers are able to translate their blueprint into measurable actions through the implementation of the core advisory perspectives through their five departmental functions.

In the real world, business enterprises and other stakeholders in people management are used to the staff function of human resources managers, and this function has come to stay as the most populous function of the human resource department. The sum total of the human resource manager is a generalist oversight of human resource staff function.

Therefore, the challenge human resource managers face is to convince their general managers or chief executive officers that their most populous function is just an insignificant portion of their deliverables.

Experts propose that human resources managers who are worth their weight in gold and really know what they are doing should spend 55% of their time on strategy, 25% on business, 15% on transaction and 5% on trade. The staff function is a fraction of the 15% of the transaction role of the human resource managers. Any allocation of time that varies from this recommendation may tilt the performance to a sub-optimal and inefficient level.

Large organizations have fairly large activities around their human resource department given their size. Hence they have different human resource specialists managed by a generalist usually regarded as either the director of human resources or human resource manager.

There is usually a ratio of one human resource specialist to one hundred employees to enable the department effectively manage their personnel. In smaller organizations, the human resource department may just be a two-man department. Whether large or small, the work of the human resources managers remains the same.

Author: Babatunde Fajimi

First published in The Union Newspaper on Sunday, April 12, 2015.

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