This is the second article in a series looking at problems experienced by an employee working for a government organisation and how HR can help to put it right. In this instalment, Jim Fischer discusses what should be done when HR does not have enough of a presence within their organisation.
Introduction by John Pope
In the previous article, I explained that I knew an intelligent and highly motivated woman of real calibre working part-time for a government organisation. This series illustrates what she has told me about the way her team works. As experienced HR specialists and managers looking at a problem from the outside, you will be able to spot what’s wrong and what should have been, or should now, be done.
The employee’s perspective: What does HR do?
I don’t know who is in charge of HR and I doubt if anyone in our department does. I don’t know what they are doing; perhaps they do come out of their offices, but we don’t see them. Each directorate has its own HR officer; I don’t know who ours is. We never see them, or hear from them, and we don’t know what they do. We had a newsletter with our payslips last month, stating that the head of HR was leaving after three years with the organisation; a photo of him was on the front – we had never met him, but now we know what he looks like. We have not been told who his replacement is. We probably won’t ever know.
We do know that we can have training and can ask for it when our ‘team leader’ does our SRD, but it’s often not actioned by the time the next SRD is done. And that brings us to SRDs. How does a manager appraise a member of staff when they don’t see them at work? Do they ask the member of staff how they think they are doing? Do the other members of the team say what they think about each other?
I have known my SRD to take less than five minutes, not in a private room and with no pre-SRD form. It feels like a paper exercise, that has to be done within a time-scale, is never planned ahead and is landed on us at a moment’s notice. The same old things are gone through, not much change from last time, and when we come out the boxes have been ticked until the next one.
And what about Investors in People? HR are in charge of it but nothing seems to happen.
Jim Fischer responds
All of us HR practitioners have a very clear view of what HR is about and can reel off a definition which captures in a nutshell what we do. My favourite is ensuring our organisation has the right people with the right skills, rewards and development rewards to deliver the organisation’s current and future aims.
We also know that every HR person has to support both employees and managers and that inherent in this is that we are caught in the middle of conflicts of interest. We also know that juggling the current needs of the organisation, reviewing future business strategy and keeping abreast of complex legislation is a highly time-consuming task.
We know that HR can be a difficult and demanding job. However, we have been carefully selected and undergone professional training so we should be able to handle the tasks which are put before us and, in the process, win the confidence and recognition of employees and managers in our organisation. In addition, in recent years, we have won the much prized seat at the top table.
Yet, despite all of this, HR is frequently unknown, misunderstood and, at worst, derided in many organisations.
So what can we do to raise the profile of HR in our organisation? Most of HR are doing the right things in the right way, but do need to raise their game. Here are some key questions that every HR practitioner needs to keep in mind.
Addressing these questions, and handling the answers, will go a long way in raising the profile and respect that the HR function deserves.
HR Zone would like to know how you would deal with this situation. Please post your experiences, views and comments below.
Jim Fischer is a highly experienced HR professional with almost 40 years service with a leading FT 100 company. He now runs his own consultancy What Next?, which is focused on helping people to identify their natural talents, interests and motivations and match these up with a rewarding career. He can be contacted on [email protected].