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The changing roles of HR: recruit, acquire, and retain good people.

It's not too surprising that the workplace keeps changing. In business, those that do not evolve and get with the change are left behind. Change flows like a wave on the ocean. Business owners can either be pounded by it or learn how to surf. Human Resources (HR) can lead the way, making sure businesses create surfers versus drowning victims, but HR's strategic roles have to evolve too. Historically, HR evolved from "personnel" and became "human resources" to meet the ever more complex rules, laws, and regulations that are required in healthy organizations.

HR was traditionally viewed as clerical and was usually attached to accounting; it often still is. Today businesses face a whole set of challenges and change that can crush even the most competitive organization--unless HR can step up and help meet these challenges. This war has three fronts that HR must address head on: talent acquisition, culture keeping, and monitoring productivity.

Every business in the United States is battling a war. The fight to attract and retain talent that will help accomplish an organization's mission is harder and harder with a shrinking pool of qualified candidates and turnover from dysfunctional teams and individuals draining the ranks. Even in Alaska, where at one time we had the youngest workforce, we are seeing more and more gray-haired workers with a distant look in their eyes towards Hawaii. So, from a shrinking pool of candidates how does a company recruit, acquire, and retain good people?

Hire for Fit

The old methods of using bloated resumes and outdated interview questions are a sure way to allow saboteurs and people who do not fit into a company's team. HR must change hiring practices and hire for fit as much, or more so, than for talent. Employees can be trained for skill, but good luck trying to change attitudes and bad people habits in a prospective employee. This means that HR must know how to assess what a team needs and be able to assess personality for fit. There are several validated business personality assessments that are reliable in predicting workplace fit. HR must seek out and acquire "good fit" people and then onboard and monitor so that they have opportunities to succeed and thrive. In order to do that they also need to have good people and teams to connect them to.

Culture Keeping

Culture keeping is the role for which HR needs to sit at the company leadership table. This means that HR must strategically lead in creating and maintaining a great place to work. The old paradigm of organizations with strict hierarchical command and control structures is outdated and does not work in a hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world. In order to meet the demands of today's workplace, collaborative and associative structures are needed. This means teams need to work across disciplines and departments, and teams and individuals need defined accountabilities and outcomes.

HR must evolve to insure that everyone treats each other with respect and to create buy-in to common shared goals. As culture keepers, HR can insure that supervisors do less supervising and instead become coaches and are accountable for their team's success.

There are some organizations in Alaska where bullies and harassers still exist and Neanderthal leadership still is the norm. Those types of companies are dying off as people are less and less tolerant and move on if issues are not addressed. When a company shifts from command and control to collaboration and association, magic starts to happen in which HR can and should play a large role. HR can help teams set values and ground rules on how they will work together and how they will handle hard times and celebrate success. HR can facilitate the building of strong work relationships that create high performing teams.

Measure to Manage

While good talent and motivated and collaborative teams are essential in today's workplace, it is not enough. People want to know how they are doing and they want to know it as it happens. This means throwing away the annual review process. It didn't work anyway and was only a tool for supervisors to beat up employees they didn't like. It rarely had anything to do with individual performance data, and if it was annual, or even quarterly, was usually too outdated to be of much value. In fact, monitoring productivity in an evolved HR role is not about how many widgets were produced or sold; it has to do with the health and productivity of a company's biggest asset, the people and teams that actually make and sell the widgets.

It also means doing away with the stereotypes of some HR departments as touchy feely places where people go when they have hurt feelings or just need help with their benefits. Those duties are important, but creating respect and accountability among teams and individuals goes a lot further in preventing problems in the first place. It would be foolish to get into a car on a bitterly cold day and drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks without headlights, a speedometer, a gas gauge, or warning lights for oil pressure and engine temperature. And yet, company "drivers" often have no clue as to how their team is performing.

HR must lead in this area and work so that performance information is readily available to all employees, so they know how their teams and they themselves are doing. It still is true that "You can't manage what you can't measure," and HR again needs to take the lead so everyone has timely facts and data to manage their performance. When teams share this data, they often start to manage themselves and take initiative to remove bottlenecks to their success.

Ever Changing

It ain't the same workplace it was even last year, and more and more change happens every day. In an ever changing world, HR will either lead the way in tuning the engine and workplace for success or it will go back to being a "personnel department."

Kevin M. Dee has a master's degree from Vanderbilt University and is the president of KMD Services & Consulting. He has more than twenty-eight years of experience providing leadership development, organizational development, and human resource services in Alaska and internationally. Contact him at
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Title Annotation:HR Matters
Comment:The changing roles of HR: recruit, acquire, and retain good people.(HR Matters)
Author:Dee, Kevin M.
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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