By Jackie Scarfe FCIPD
HR, as a support function, should, like any other, ‘earn it's keep’ and with budgets increasingly being squeezed during the economic downturn and with MDs, FDs and HR professionals themselves keen to be able to demonstrate value for money from the function.
Here are some top tips for ensuring HR delivers a return on the investment made in it. None of it is ‘rocket science’ but if your HR team is not engaged in the activities listed below, it’s time to ask why not.
- Your HR team should always be fully up to date on and conversant with employment law. This will ensure not only that the risk to the organization of any claim is mitigated but should also help to reduce expensive legal advice costs
- Encourage your HR team to actively network with other HR professionals and those in associated disciplines. Ideas and advice are then readily available and usually free , both helping to avoid expensive consultancy costs and allowing your team to discuss solutions with other organisations that have experience in that area.
- Make sure that your senior HR staff are included in key management communication relating to any decisions which are likely to affect, either directly or indirectly, the employees. HR can then be better prepared to either maximize the potential for employee engagement or minimize any negative reaction or ‘fallout’.
- Aim to engage your HR team as a proactive and strategic partner rather than simply as a reactive and process owner. Whilst the ‘housekeeping’ and data management side of HR is important, it won’t, on its own, generate improvement and benefit to the organization. Data capture and information gathering should be the first step in a process to ensuring the knowledge gathered is then used to lead improvement.
- Encourage HR to use IT to its advantage as budget allows. Even the most simple of IT improvements can not only save time but enhance the quality and timeliness of information gathered and of communication disseminated. IT systems designed to manage the recruitment process or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are particularly important when deployed effectively.
- Continuing on from the above, excellent communication both up and down through the organization is essential for a motivated, aware and interested workforce. HR should be a key driver in ensuring timely and quality communication both vertically and laterally within the organisation
- HR as a discipline must ensure it continues to address the needs of the organization and adapt to change both internally and externally and therefore, as with other professionals, your HR team should keep abreast of upcoming trends and practices. Nowadays with information readily available via numerous websites and through professional social media groups, there is no excuse for your HR team not to be aware of ‘cutting edge’ practices.
- It is critical that HR have an excellent working relationship with the various layers of management if they are to act in a true Business Partner sense. Your HR team should be fully conversant with the various team/departmental strategies, of the particular challenges and strengths within the teams and of the support that HR can lend to ensure the development, improvement and success of each team.
- Ensure that your HR strategy focuses on improving the business through its people and processes and that it isn’t merely a list of isolated targets that won’t add real value to the organization and the bottom line. Your HR team should be fully conversant with the business strategy and be using that to formulate its own key objectives.
Finally, if you invest in your HR team or an outsourced provider, and manage that investment in terms of your expectations and the needs of the business then some evidence of a return of your investment should be seen, within months, on that bottom line.