The DNA of Human Resources Salim Al Reyami







This week Salim Reyami our regular Omani contributor writes on HR having a DNA! Sometimes, we in the HR community have heard not so endearing possibilities about this very often denigrated department.

Surprised with the topic title? Well, definitely by DNA? I do not mean the ‘Deoxyribo nucleic acid’ with its helical shape that constitutes part of the nucleus of all living creatures, but I mean the main HR function with its human capital and other programmes involved.

HR should move and go beyond the traditional practices of manpower planning, resourcing, salary structuring, policies and legal issues to new practices that promote HR from business partners to business leaders, to become more strategic.

We, as HR professionals do not wish HR to be one of the first overhead functions to be cut when times get tough. Therefore, the HR mindset should change; for example I remember a colleague of mine who is very traditional on his HR functions, once told me a metaphor about resourcing and manpower planning: “An organisation is like a bus, first get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats”. Although this metaphor is almost perfect, the sentence (his metaphor) should be completed like this: “….and then figure out where to drive it”. I am not talking here about a surgery or a medical aspect, but that HR functions need to be more effective, and hence I call for a new ‘DNA’ of HR.

The current situation and the need for new HR DNA

Many HR functions have seen their budgets drastically cut, while others are finding significant portions of what they do either being replaced by technology or outsourced entirely. I’ve been in HR for over 14 years and this phenomenon of cutting during tough economic times is nothing new; it’s just surprising that we in HR have done little to prevent its re-occurrence. So, what is the first step? As I mentioned, we need to turn HR people into business leaders (rather than “partners”) who are not satisfied just to be invited to business meetings. What VP’s of HR who hope to be CEO’s will need is a new, much more aggressive approach to HR.

The four DNA requirements

HR that is ROI oriented: As technology and the popularity of outsourcing expand, HR will be under increasing pressure to act like an ROI (return on investment) department. Responsible heads of HR should respond by becoming more financially focused and accountable. Excellent HR departments should work directly with the CFO in order to become more data driven and credible. The DNA calls HR to continually shift resources from low return HR programmes towards those that produce higher return.

HR to promote performance culture

For some unknown reason HR spends most of its time on the bottom performers in a firm. HR must limit the time it spends on low performers and on fixing mediocre people programmes. Under the new DNA, it must focus its efforts on building a performance culture (a culture that measures and rewards performance and results). If the entire organisation is to be the top performer in its industry then each and every HR programme must focus on performance improvement. Instead of rewarding seniority, efforts and loyalty, HR should focus on rewarding business results and continuous improvement.

A strategic HR that changes with the economy: When you ask most managers what the name of their firm’s HR strategy is, you generally get a blank look (incidentally, HR personnel often respond: “I don’t know”). If HR is to be strategic, it must have a clear written strategy that has been communicated to and understood by all. The new DNA demands that the strategy be agile, capable of flexing, and adaptive to changes in the economy. Traditional HR practices and strategies have remained constant even though shifts in the economy have a direct impact on the effectiveness of recruiting, retention, pay… to name a few.

HR as a productive consultant not a ‘cop’: HR must drop its HR “cop” role where it warns of possible legal action and instead begin to shift into a role similar to that of a financial adviser. Instead of saying “no” to managers or focusing on developing more policies and procedures, HR will begin to give advice and data to managers on the probabilities, risks, and success factors for their potential solutions.

Bottom line

In this current economy, where competition, mergers and advance technology are moving at ‘rocket speed’, HR need to revise its functions. Nevertheless, if you’re going to radically change HR, you need to look at its focus, its strategies, and the people who comprise it. The “old days” where HR primarily focused on administration, transactions and employee advocacy are on the way out. HR needsHR DNA to demonstrate true “out of the box” strategies and tools for changing the DNA of HR!

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