Putting Human Into Human Resources
Human resources is a relatively new field of study compared with others in business such as Operations, Sales, Finance or Marketing.
Since modern business administration studies started, Taylor focused on Operations and productivity. Sales is said to be one of the oldest professions and Accounting was created by Luca Pacciolo, a Florence monk, in the 1600s.
Human Resources is relatively new, and its evolution can also be tracked in the name of the field: Personnel, Industrial Relations, Human Resources, Human Capital in the future?
As the profession evolved so did the profile of the incumbents.
We could “generally” state that in the Personnel days it was more a clerical work. No dominant college degree was required in the field. It’s general functions were payroll, record keeping and administration.
The Industrial Relations era, had a great emphasis in Labor and Union relations, it was the time of Legal and emerging Industrial Relations degrees.
At the same time, but with a different perspective, the psychological and organizational behavior approach started to evolve as well, with a focus on understanding the individual and his interpersonal relationships. Degrees in Human Resources and Organizational Behavior became more popular.
Then the “Business Partner” era came and we needed to “focus on the business”, be “real” partners, understand the bottom line, speak the business language etc…
This of course is critical, what’s the use of HR professionals if they don’t understand or add value to the business?
Also during this transitional times new and complex issues have arisen in the work environment in which HR had to take a major lead in managing Diversity and Inclusion, Work and Life Balance, increased demands from a diverse and more demanding workforce as well as many other work related issues and regulations. These issues have dramatically changed the way HR professionals work.
With so much change...what are the key competencies of an HR professional?
I personally believe the Ulrich model is the best way to capture the multi dimensions of our work, based on the axes: Strategic /Tactic, and Business/People Ulrich defined our role into four key quadrants:
It’s not my purpose to describe the Ulrich model, but rather to express my opinion on the Employee advocate role.
An Organization needs a face.
And that face in many cases is HR. In day to day it’s your boss, no doubt, but when somebody needs to express himself in confidence, when an employee needs somebody to bounce ideas off, express himself or herself and feel that someone is actively listening to them. If an employee wants to feel a part of something bigger, the HR door should be opened to help that person.
HR support adds tremendous value to an organization.
Sometimes it’s just listening, or showing empathy, sometimes is just advice or a casual chat to decompress stress, but always with an attitude that we care for that person. It’s a “service” that organizations need to provide to have a healthy work environment. Employees must be able to walk up the aisle to talk with the organizations “face”
If we just had out a 1-800 number for the employee assistance program, we are not doing our job.
Or if in difficult of employee relations cases, we just had out policies and re send people for training, we are not helping to solve the issues; if there are employee relations problems we need to listen to understand have empathy and put common sense in to the situation, be someone that helps, rather than a policy policeperson.
And of course we are all different and interact differently; so are our employees, of whom we are advocates, and according to their personal style, they will go to the person they feel more comfortable speaking with and dealing with, so the more diverse the HR group, the better it will serve the employee population.
The Human touch
It might seem corny or unprofessional, but we need to provide service with a high touch, high feeling interaction.
Emotions are an important part of our life, and this touchy and feely support will make our employees feel part of something they belong to.