Final destination? HR in the future  

17 June 2008:

There's no doubt technology has been one of the key drivers in HR transformation over the last 10 years but it has also come with a shift in mindset. The latest mantra is that people are a company's most important asset. Whether the same could be said of the HR function in another 10 years from now is another matter.

The problem with HR, according to the experts, is that it has always struggled to prove its value. There are many facets to consider in the role such as recruitment and retention, talent management, reward and recognition, managing absenteeism, policies and legislation, coaching and training... the list goes on. But, as Dr Peter Samuel, lecturer in human resource management at Nottingham University Business School, points out, some of the softer skills needed are still seen as a bit 'fluffy'.

The success of HR's performance comes down to company expectations. When all's said and done in terms of value, is it the bottom line that should ultimately be measured? If so, what are the markers? Are you measuring other stakeholder values as well? What sort of practices are you using and are they seen as best practice? Is one practice more important than the other? "It's the silver bullet managers are always looking for in times of uncertainty," says Samuel.

"HR is constantly reinventing itself. There is an argument that HR is strategic. If it is, you would expect to see HR directors sitting on boards and being involved in the strategic planning process in organisations, but research evidence shows that while most private companies do have a voice on the board of directors, it has been declining."

The research he refers to is figures that show influence at board level peaked just over 20 years ago, with 76% of companies having an HR director on the board. This now sits around 64%. His argument is that if the people are your most important asset, you would expect this figure to increase, rather than drop. "It suggests to me that HR is becoming more operational," Samuel says, slightly mirroring its personnel days. He goes as far as to say that HR could be blamed for the 'fat cat' culture. Whereas in the past personnel played devil's advocate between employer and employee, they now seem to gravitate towards management sympathies. "HR hasn’t had the ability to bring in moral judgements and say, 'hang on, if people are our most important asset you can't do that'. It's got to justify itself."

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Source: HR Zone

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