HR Matters – Don’t Treat Human Resources As DIY

While do-it-yourselfers are reportedly shaking up the real estate industry by jumping into the market to sell their own homes, a do-it-yourself human resource strategy is rarely as successful. That’s because human resource management doesn’t just represent one aspect of managing people; it is a broad and complicated function. It typically includes eight functional areas including recruitment and selection, employee and labour relations, performance management, training and development, career management and succession planning, organizational development, compensation and benefits, and administration and records management.

You need to have expertise in each of these areas to ensure your organization is running smoothly from the people side of the business. Therefore, today’s business and the complexity of the people issues experienced by organizations no longer support the old “add-on” strategy of tacking HR as a responsibility to a front-line operational manager. There are just too many risks.

For instance, high turnover is one risk that can cost an organization up to three times the salary for a frontline worker and much more for highly skilled professionals. Low morale is another costly risk as poor performance management, a failure to deal with internal employee conflict, low support for training and development and/or the lack of advancement opportunities can cause havoc with employee productivity.

Finally, let’s face it, employees are more quickly reaching out beyond their employer for help or restitution. If their employer fails to address a work situation, employees will turn to their human rights commissions to seek justice for issues such as failure to accommodate for disability, sexual harassment and other employment-related issues. And from a business point of view, it doesn’t matter whether a situation is a win or a loss, the cost of legal fees, possible awards for damages as well as the overall public scrutiny that will surely result can be quite scary.

It doesn’t matter whether your organization is big or small or whether you operate as a business or a not-for-profit, human resource management matters. In fact, human resources starts and ends with your business. So, let’s look at what a human resource role in your organization can do and why you should invest in this function.

Ask yourself the following brief questions and learn how a human resource professional can help make your business successful.

Meeting customer needs – What organizational skills and capabilities are needed to ensure your products or services not only reach your customer on time, but meet their specific needs. Will new employee skills be needed as your products/services change to meet market demand? A human resource professional can help by conducting needs assessments, sourcing training and/or developing programs inhouse.

Responding to market trends – What are the trends for your industry? Are you downsizing? What plans are you making for this strategy? Who do you need to keep, how will you decide? Or, are you in growth mode? How many staff do you need and where can you find them? A human resource professional can put the strategy and systems in place to handle both of these organizational situations.

Annual productivity goals – Can you meet your productivity goals with the staff you have? Are there pockets of discontent that need examination? Are you experiencing turnover and losing key staff? A human resource professional can conduct an organization review, determine whether your structure is effective and/or whether job roles need to be changed or expanded.

Confronting change – The world is speeding along at so fast a rate that managing change is now a daily issue. What changes are you being confronted with? What will the impact be on your employees? How will you manage the transition? A human resource professional can act as your change champion, planning for all the stages of change and managing the process.

Meeting market compensation value – What compensation do you pay compared to your competitors? What is your pay philosophy and how is this implemented throughout your organization? When was the last time that you examined internal pay equity? Are your employees experiencing a positive “fair felt pay”? A human resource professional can review your compensation practices and ensure that compensation becomes an employee retention strategy.

These business elements are only a fraction of how a human resource professional can contribute to your organization. But how do you know you are ready? Ask yourself, “Where exactly are you spending your time?” It is my experience that if you are spending more than 20 per cent of your daily schedule dealing with human resource management issues, then it’s time you created a role for a human resource professional in your organization or contracted with an outside professional for help. Don’t wait until you are experiencing a great deal of pain, because by then the damage is done.

What does a human resource management professional look like today? What are their qualifications and credentials? The human resource profession has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 15 years. While earlier in the history of the profession, most people entered from the operational side of the business, today, people are specifically choosing the profession and receive specialized training. Most young people graduate with a business degree while others come with an alternate undergraduate degree and an MBA or master of leadership or organization development. Today as well, there are numerous professional designations such as the Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP), Senior Professional (SPHR) and the new Global Professional (GPHR).

In addition, there are professional designations in payroll, compensation and benefit, labour relations and/or executive coaching. Finally, human resource professionals keep up with trends by engaging in continuous professional development. As noted earlier, do-it-yourselfers are reportedly shaking up the real estate industry. However, with today’s fast-paced, complex and complicated business world, a do-it-yourself strategy applied to an organization’s human resource management needs is simply too risky.

Approaches to Strategic Human Resources Management

A Human Resources Executive as a member of top management must determine what policies, programs, practices, and approaches will contribute most to the realization of the organization objectives. This means that in his new role he must be responsible for initiating and implementing-at all levels of management-the most effective utilization of the human assets.

The primary function of the human resources position is to make a major contribution to the development and realization of the organization short-term and long-range objectives while enabling each employee to develop to the fullest extent of his potential. This requires a catalyst and business effectiveness consultant as contrasted with the traditional role of the personnel director.

With these thoughts in mind, the position of the vice-president-human resources might be defined in this way. He reports to the president. His broad function is to formulate, recommend, and implement policies, procedures, and plans to assure the most effective planning, recruitment, selection, utilization, motivation, development, and compensation of the organization human resources; contribute to the development and achievement of the organization long-range and short-term objectives by initiating and implementing employee relations practices which will enable and encourage each employee to realize his personal goals while maximizing his contribution to business effectiveness; provide for the resolution of management problems and the realization of opportunities through innovative approaches to human resources management.

The principal responsibilities of the human resources executive are these:

• Formulate and recommend human resource objectives for inclusion in the organization overall objectives.

• Identify the potential contribution of good human resource management to organizational objectives.

• Identify management problems that can be resolved and opportunities that can be realized through improved effectiveness in human resource management.

• Formulate, recommend, and implement employee relations policies designed to improve individual productivity, job satisfaction, and profitability.

• Make managers aware of their full responsibilities in the management of the human resources entrusted to them.

• Provide the necessary tools, techniques, and methods which foster the development of a business climate conducive to employee innovation and development.

• Establish the necessary procedures and practices for human resource planning, recruitment, selection, utilization, motivation, development, and compensation. Insure that these are incorporated into every manager job performance evaluation.

• Develop and staff the employee relations function to make provision for innovative approaches to labor and union relations, personnel practices and services, training and development, communication, community relations, benefit plan development and administration, and problem solving.

• Serve as a catalyst and business effectiveness consultant in initiating and implementing new approaches to human resources management.

This position can exert a tremendous influence on business results. Therefore, a few words need to be said about each principal responsibility.

Just as important as market position, technological leadership, return on investment, and profitability are organization human resources. Thus its objectives must reflect this hierarchy of importance.

Human resource objectives for any firm might include five points:

(1) Provide stable employment, equitable compensation, desirable working conditions, and opportunities for advancement for employees in return for their skill, care, efforts, dependability, and teamwork.

(2) Provide a climate conducive to the development of each employee potential in accord with his needs, interests, desires, abilities, and willingness to take on additional responsibility to realize his personal and professional career objectives.

(3). Manage the human resources to assure continuing vitality and growth of the company while realizing a profit and providing opportunities for public service.

(4) Provide a sound organization with enlightened leadership to assure maximum work satisfactions for each employee in a decentralized environment.

(5) Define clearly for each individual the responsibilities of his position, along with the commensurate authority that will enable him to make his best contribution to overall organization goals.

Every organization, regardless of its size, must provide for the needs, interests, and desires of its employees within the work environment if it is to earn loyalty, dedication, involvement, and commitment. This is necessary in order to compete effectively for superior talent in the marketplace. Just making these objectives known would serve to attract the kind of employees all organizations want to have. It is, of course, necessary to follow-up with good management of human resources, or high turnover will inevitably result.

To shed some light on the importance of human resource management, it is a good exercise to look at the objectives of a profit-oriented enterprise-a single-product company, in this instance and attempt to identify the potential contribution of effective management of our human assets. The objectives are:

• To obtain and hold 41 percent of the total available market.

• To return 25 percent on invested capital.

• To return 12 percent on sales.

• To be the technological leader in new product innovation.

• To be the leader in introducing new manufacturing processes, methods, and technology.

• To provide a reliable, dependable, safe product at quality levels superior to those of the competition.

• To build public confidence in the company product and services.

• To attract and retain investor capital by providing a favorable return to share-owners.

• To increase the value of the company stock.

• To cooperate with and provide a fair profit to our suppliers, distributors, retailers, and contractors.

• To be a good corporate citizen by discharging our social, civic, and economic responsibilities through commitment of funds and managerial talent.

How Should You Respond to an Automated Human Resources Rejection Email?

This is an example of standard wording being used by humans in the human resources field, along with non-human automated applicant systems: We regret to inform you that we will not be pursuing your candidacy for this position. Though your qualifications are impressive, the selection process was highly competitive. We have reviewed the qualifications of each candidate, and after careful consideration, we have determined that the credentials of other candidates may better fit our needs at this time.

This form letter is meant to assure job candidates they were given the best possible consideration for a position, whether or not they were ever contacted for the position. The job applicant is also supposed to trust the process, the automated applicant tracking or review system, and/or the person who may or may not have reviewed the candidate’s resume. This type of form letter or email is send out regardless of how much time a job candidate has invested in filling out an online form, even if there have been multiple screens requiring an extensive investment of effort to complete. The job applicant must now trust that a “careful consideration” was given to the application, and feel good that their “qualifications are impressive”, but not impressive enough to warrant further job consideration.

Why is it though, this form letter is no longer believable and only prompts feelings of anxiety and worse by job candidates? I have felt it myself, even as an educator and career coach. I have sent out resumes for online teaching positions and it would be natural to assume with my background there would be endless opportunities available for me to choose from at any time. Yet I am subject to the same impersonal form email as other job candidates, without any available recourse, and this is the reason why so many people find this type of wording so infuriating. There is often a lack of human interaction, connection, and attempt to actually get to know the background and experience of the job applicant. When you meet and far exceed the requirements of a posted position, and no one takes time to call and speak with you, how is that careful consideration has been given?

What does a job applicant do when the process of applying for positions with human resources departments no longer seems to involve humans, and no longer involves actual human interactions?

The Automation of Human Resources

When I began my professional career, the process of job searching was much different. At that time, you could contact a personnel department and find out who the hiring manager was for a position and then send your resume directly to that manager. In other words, a personnel department was personable. When you were told your resume would be put on file, you had a fairly reasonable assurance that if you were suited to the type of work this business performed, or services offered, you might hear from someone again. You could send a follow up letter or make a follow up inquiry phone call, and develop a productive relationship with the personnel department or hiring manager.

Fast forward now to the current state of human resources. I am educator who has taught business courses and has been immersed in the business field. I have some insight into the field of human resources as well from my work as a career coach. What I can tell you is there is a lot written about nurturing and developing employees, existing employees that is. There is very little written about developing relationships with external job candidates. In fact, there is growing shift towards the automation of human resources, with the use of an automated applicant tracking system. There is a belief among many experts this type of system is the future of human resources and actual humans will no longer be needed in the future for evaluating candidates.

I find this extremely alarming and my perspective is based upon seeing two extremes. The first is the perspective of treating job applicants like human beings and developing relationships with them. The other extreme is treating job applicants like disposable numbers, which is where the field of human resources is heading now. I wrote an article about this subject earlier this year and the reaction was as expected from many in the field of human resources; they are overworked, the job market is overcrowded, and most human resources departments are understaffed.

There is also an assumption here that many are overlooking and failing to discuss about the automation of the human resources. The assumption is that you can get to know a job candidate strictly through use of an algorithm. I have also been a professional resume writer for over 12 years and I know what most homemade resumes look like, which means most people do not know how to convey their skills and abilities well on their own. I have learned how to write a resume that can use keywords and pass the automated applicant tracking system test, but few people can do this on their own and this means many individuals could easily be ruled out simply because of their resume.

What Are Job Candidates To Do Now?

If you have received an email or letter with the wording described above, what should be your course of action? I know there is going to be an emotional reaction as I have felt it myself and I still can experience it. It is natural to feel strongly about an impersonal reply when you make an investment in your career, and you take time to apply for positions – especially online positions which require you to fill out what seems like an endless number of forms. You have to first address your feelings and allow yourself to move from an emotional to a rational mindset.

Unfortunately, when you receive an automated email you have received something impersonal, and there is likely no follow-up available that involves personal contact of any kind. There used to be a time when a job candidate could network with employees at an organization, or even find direct contact information for human resources employees. However, this seems to have changed as many human resources departments and/or human resources employees can no longer be found on organizational or institutional websites, using anonymity to prevent any form of direct contact. If this is the case, and you have received the standard rejection form email, there is nothing further you can do but apply again if you see another position.

What more can you do at this point? It would also be advisable to review and re-review your resume to determine if you have marketed yourself well, to show you have skills which are transferrable to the job or career you are applying for now. The automation of human resources is apparently not going to change any time soon, which means job applicants are going to have to accept and adapt somehow. What makes this matter even more frustrating is the lack of personal contact. If the process of evaluating a job candidate involved a phone call as a matter of routine practice, even a five-minute screening phone call, then I believe a job candidate would more likely accept an email that states their qualifications were carefully reviewed.

For now, job candidates are at a disadvantage when it comes to the use of automated applicant systems and anonymous human resources employees and/or human resources departments to apply for positions. What a job candidate can do is to leverage marketing tools, such as a resume and professional online portfolio, to help increase his or her visibility. Recently I utilized WordPress, a free online blog platform, to create a visual portfolio of my background and experience as an educator. I now provide a link to that website in my cover letter. I also keep my LinkedIn profile up-to-date, and I publish posts to share my knowledge and expertise.

While the tools I have mentioned are not going to change the field of human resources, or improve the success rate of my interactions with an automated applicant tracking system, it does change how I feel about myself. I also know that when someone does contact me from an organization or institution, and they want to discuss my background and experience, I have found a place I am really interested in. Any organization or institution that will rule out my application by using an automated system, without ever speaking with me, is probably a place I would not want to work. This is especially true if the automated email was sent out without someone speaking to me directly or attempting to get to know me as a person.

The most important aspect of the job application process to remember is this: A form letter holds no weight with regards to who you are and it should never be considered an evaluation of you as a person or a critique of your career. If this is how an organization or institution has evaluated you or your career, that is their loss. You are the sum of your experiences, knowledge, and skills, not just the jobs you have held. Remember this: Believe in yourself and what you can accomplish in your career, hold onto that vision, and you will make it.

Dr. J’s mission is to teach, write, and inspire others as an academic educator, leader, author, writer, and mentor.

Dr. J has been working in the field of higher education and distance learning since 2005, with roles that have included Chief Academic Officer, online instructor, college instructor, and online faculty development specialist. Dr. J also has significant experience with curriculum development, having developed hundreds of courses for corporate training programs, along with bachelors, masters, and doctorate college degree programs.

Dr. J founded Afforded Quality Writing in 2003 and writes hundreds of resumes each year, utilizing a skill set based approach to highlight the best of each person’s career.

What is Strategic Human Resource Management?

In Human Resource (HR) and management circles nowadays there is much talk about Strategic Human Resource Management and many expensive books can be seen on the shelves of bookshops. But what exactly is SHRM (Strategic Human Resource Development), what are its key features and how does it differ from traditional human resource management?

SHRM or Strategic human resource management is a branch of Human resource management or HRM. It is a fairly new field, which has emerged out of the parent discipline of human resource management. Much of the early or so called traditional HRM literature treated the notion of strategy superficially, rather as a purely operational matter, the results of which cascade down throughout the organisation. There was a kind of unsaid division of territory between people-centred values of HR and harder business values where corporate strategies really belonged. HR practitioners felt uncomfortable in the war cabinet like atmosphere where corporate strategies were formulated.

Definition of SHRM

Strategic human resource management can be defined as the linking of human resources with strategic goals and objectives in order to improve business performance and develop organizational culture that foster innovation, flexibility and competitive advantage. In an organisation SHRM means accepting and involving the HR function as a strategic partner in the formulation and implementation of the company’s strategies through HR activities such as recruiting, selecting, training and rewarding personnel.

How SHRM differs from HRM

In the last two decades there has been an increasing awareness that HR functions were like an island unto itself with softer people-centred values far away from the hard world of real business. In order to justify its own existence HR functions had to be seen as more intimately connected with the strategy and day to day running of the business side of the enterprise. Many writers in the late 1980s, started clamoring for a more strategic approach to the management of people than the standard practices of traditional management of people or industrial relations models. Strategic human resource management focuses on human resource programs with long-term objectives. Instead of focusing on internal human resource issues, the focus is on addressing and solving problems that effect people management programs in the long run and often globally. Therefore the primary goal of strategic human resources is to increase employee productivity by focusing on business obstacles that occur outside of human resources. The primary actions of a strategic human resource manager are to identify key HR areas where strategies can be implemented in the long run to improve the overall employee motivation and productivity. Communication between HR and top management of the company is vital as without active participation no cooperation is possible.

Key Features of Strategic Human Resource Management

The key features of SHRM are

There is an explicit linkage between HR policy and practices and overall organizational strategic aims and the organizational environment
There is some organizing schema linking individual HR interventions so that they are mutually supportive
Much of the responsibility for the management of human resources is devolved down the line

Trends in Strategic Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management professionals are increasingly faced with the issues of employee participation, human resource flow, performance management, reward systems and high commitment work systems in the context of globalization. Older solutions and recipes that worked in a local context do not work in an international context. Cross-cultural issues play a major role here. These are some of the major issues that HR professionals and top management involved in SHRM are grappling with in the first decade of the 21st century:

Internationalization of market integration.
Increased competition, which may not be local or even national through free market ideology
Rapid technological change.
New concepts of line and general management.
Constantly changing ownership and resultant corporate climates.
Cross-cultural issues
The economic gravity shifting from ‘developed’ to ‘developing’ countries

SHRM also reflects some of the main contemporary challenges faced by Human Resource Management: Aligning HR with core business strategy, demographic trends on employment and the labour market, integrating soft skills in HRD and finally Knowledge Management.