As the business landscape rapidly transforms, human resources (HR) managers are having to be increasingly flexible in the way they work, responding to demand for a wider range of services from their employers. They need to focus on delivering value to their organisation on a number of fronts, through the acquisition and retention of employees, and by managing them as individuals and a collective during their period of employment. The multi-faceted nature of their role means HR managers faced a variety of challenges - but what are the main issues keeping them awake at night?
- Change Management
HR is naturally involved in the 'people' aspects of change management, whether this means hiring them, firing them, reorganising teams, changing roles, altering shift patterns or developing new skills. As organisations remodel themselves for the digital age, HR managers have an important role to play ensuring employees at every level respond to such changes, and are fully equipped to do the jobs expected of them.
- Leadership Development
The HR function is expected to provide the structures and processes needed to identify future leaders for the organisation, whether internally or externally. This is a key strategic initiative for many businesses, as they look to safeguard their own futures. Clear pathways to the top are needed in order to retain the most talented workers - and HR has a role to play in identifying these individuals.
- Measuring performance
In order to identify areas for improvement, HR managers need to analyse performance - across their entire organisation, including within the human resources function. The use of metrics can give HR managers additional authority, and help them become a strategic partner in the business rather than somebody who is merely in charge of people management and administration. In a recent Robert Half report, Business Partnering: Optimising corporate performance, HR was identified as one of the primary areas with whom finance leaders partner to deliver measurable and strategic results.
HR managers are actively involved in the agreement of employee contracts, and also ensuring these are honoured by the organisation. They may participate in negotiations about pay and benefits, and they will certainly be charged with ensuring employees are paid on time and correctly each month.
HR managers will be actively involved in the recruitment process, from drawing up a job advert, to setting the candidate criteria, shortlisting applicants and organising the interview process. They may also be required to head-hunt preferred candidates for some roles - putting pressure on them to identify talented professionals capable of taking their organisation forwards.
Given that it is easier and cheaper to retain existing workers than hire new ones, HR managers have a key role to play in keeping hold of talent. They can potentially contribute to this process by appeasing disgruntled workers and acting as a go-between with management.
- Conflict resolution
In the event of a dispute between two members of staff, HR may be required to intervene and try to find a solution to the problem. This requires an extensive knowledge of employment law and an ability to cope under pressure. HR managers need to ensure they are fair, objective and treat the parties equally.
With training vital for the development of functional, productive teams, HR managers need to find ways of fitting development sessions around day-to-day work. This may factor in a number of considerations, such as staff co-ordination, budget, and time.
HR managers may have an important role to play in ensuring the welfare of employees throughout the organisation, whether they are working in an office, a factory, on the shop floor or even on the road. They need to be aware of potential hazards - major or minor - which could contribute to accidents or increase the risks of absenteeism, either now or in the future.