Human resources (HR) has always played an important role in business, but in the past was typically seen as dealing largely with mundane but necessary tasks, such as payroll or booking staff holidays. However, in recent years, HR has become a critical function, playing a central role in facilitating change, increasing productivity and boosting brand reputation. – all of which contribute directly to bottom-line growth. Consequently, the image and importance of HR practitioners have transformed significantly.
A skilled and productive workforce is necessary for any company’s success in an increasingly competitive, global business environment. However, people today have a far better sense of their own worth and are far more willing to leave their existing job or refuse an offer of one if the role doesn’t fulfil their expectations. That’s why HR is so valued by today’s companies. It not only understands how to meet the ever-evolving demands of today’s workforce, but also the right way to create consumer-grade candidate experiences that attracts fresh talent.
Despite this, HR is still too often viewed solely as the custodian of employment policies, practices and procedures. A custodian is a professional who performs tasks that keep the building in good shape and ensures everything runs smoothly. However, HR offers far more than simple maintenance. When senior management teams embrace and invest in it, it quickly becomes a respected part of the strategic decision-making process. This is because an established HR department understands the needs and concerns of the workforce and how decisions by senior leaders will affect them. While progress is being made in this regard, the next generation of HR leaders must continue to showcase the direct correlation between HR investment and business success.
A new study commissioned by Speaker’s Corner recently found that 91 per cent of UK business owners are struggling to recruit and retain highly skilled employees. It’s a terrible situation for businesses, especially start-ups and SMEs. In today’s world, if you want to grow your business, you must prioritise HR because recruiting, training, engaging and retaining good people is essential for organisational effectiveness.
Also, it must be understood that employee wellbeing and development have become ever more important in the last few years as recent studies, such as the WorkBuzz State of Employee Engagement report, will attest to. This found that culture, rather than higher salaries, was the most effective lever to attract talent. Simply put, keeping todays’ employees happy nowadays requires more than just a paycheck.
The current geopolitical and economic climate has impacted the financial security of employees and their belief systems greatly.
HR can help steer companies through this uncertainty because it serves as a catalyst for change that is essential for survival and success. Today’s HR managers are being empowered to create employee-centric cultures, which allow for ideas, creativity and communication to pervade the organisations they work for. This allows employees to freely raise issues that senior management teams may not be aware of, but which are interfering with productivity and performance. Putting such a structure in place is a lot of responsibility and not everyone is cut out for it, but for those who are, it’s extremely rewarding.
Who wouldn’t want a career motivating people to perform at their best or creating cultures that espouse positivity and employee wellbeing? After all, you’re benefitting the business, fellow employees and your own professional development.
All good leaders understand the importance of professionalism, the power of experience and the need to treat those they have a responsibility to well, regardless of their status. Anyone who wants to become a leader should ask themselves: “Why would anyone want to follow me?” If you’re not inspired enough to answer that question about yourself, you’re unlikely to be able to motivate others or help develop the inspiration of tomorrow’s business leaders.
In terms of HR specifically though, you must have emotional intelligence and the ability to recognise when an organisation needs to change, whether that is by analysing market trends and competitors or identifying areas for improvement or transformation. By keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry, HR can anticipate future challenges and drive proactive change initiatives.
Michael Doolin is a subject matter expert in the areas of HR employment law, reorganisation and change, HR infrastructure and policy and procedure development. He has held board director positions and designed and developed HR strategy for some of Europe’s leading brands
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