In the old days, Human Resources was the office in a company where new employees were recruited, hired, trained, given a health insurance and retirement plan, and possibly disciplined or even fired for not measuring up to expectations.
But in today’s corporate environment, HR is increasingly taking a seat not in a back room but in the boardroom. Successful companies recognize that human capital is their most important asset, and that the office that deals with a company’s workforce is not in charge of dealing with problems but of developing strategies to make the company succeed.
Employees need a work environment where they feel valued and equipped with the tools they need to be successful. Employers need motivated workers they can count on to meet their business objectives. HR is the nexus that brings these two groups together into a cooperative and productive relationship.
Think about all the ground-breaking business ideas that were developed without people — none! And which office is responsible for a company’s people? HR is and always has been the department that deals with all things worker-related. But today it’s less of an airbag defending against catastrophe and more of a gas pedal driving acceleration.
Consider some of the traditional roles of the HR department and how they’re being redefined in today’s marketplace:
- Recruiting: Old-school HR departments were more reactive, responding when the management identified personnel needs within the company. Today’s HR professionals have a key role at the table, spotting gaps in the company’s employment needs before others and proactively seeking out qualified people to fill them.
- Compensation: Quality doesn’t come cheap, and competition among companies for top talent can be fierce. Perhaps the simplest measure of the desirability of a job is how much it pays, and HR professionals must be aware of the salary ranges offered by competitors in order to remain competitive at attracting great workers.
- Benefits: In an age of rising health and pension costs, Human Resources is the go-to source for smart sourcing of insurance and retirement solutions. This is part and parcel of both the recruiting and the retention strategies that convince the employment pool that this company is a great place to work.
- Training and development: Gone are the days when bosses called up HR to say the company needed more technical training, sexual harassment classes or career development seminars. Today’s HR professionals are the first to recognize these needs, keeping abreast of competitive and legal issues, and to find ways to implement them intelligently throughout the company.
- Retention: Recruiting great talent is a waste if new employees see your company as a stepping-stone to a better job. HR pros put a stopper in the revolving door, working with existing personnel to keep them on board, happy with their jobs and looking to stick around.
- Performance appraisal and rewards: The dreaded annual “evaluation,” by whatever pseudonym it’s known, is often a distasteful process for both workers and the managers who must appraise their performance. But it’s a necessary step to ensuring that employees’ and employers’ priorities are in alignment. A bad review can ruin anyone’s day, but rewards for exceptional performance can be a great motivator.
- Strategic management: HR professionals are acutely aware of the short- and long-term goals of the organization, and they have measurable objectives to attain these desired ends. The office they staff is not just the place you go to fill out your W-4 but an integral part of formulating and implementing the company’s business strategy.
At no time in history have HR professionals been so relevant and necessary. Even the world’s most automated companies will tell you that their most important resources are and will always be human.