This is the first of 2 instalments which will demonstrate the nature of human resource department duties that would otherwise overwhelm an organisation’s leaders were it not for the presence of a Human Resource Practitioner (HRP) among them to advise, attend to and address matters that affect the human resource.
The purpose of leadership in an organisation including the HRP is to lead staff to produce optimally that which the organisation was formed. It does not matter whether it is a profit or non – profit organisation the responsibilities are similar and that is to ensure planned productivity intended to sustain an organisation is met and maintained.
The Engineering Manager is working flat out to repair and maintain equipment, the Sales Manager is fighting hard to sell the products that have been produced by the Production Manager or Factory Manager whilst the Finance Manager is accounting and sourcing funds to run an organisation and yet still you have the Security Manager protecting assets from getting stolen.
Other departments such as geology, survey, marketing, safety, information technology, spares, purchasing and planning have leaders too who are carrying out their responsibilities in pursuit of attaining set production levels. These leaders have immense responsibilities which their Chief Executive would like to see accomplished.
In their quest to accomplish established goals the leaders interact with subordinate staff who:
- Have ambition for developing to higher positions of authority.
- At times find themselves in conflict with their supervisors’ job requirements.
- Have personal issues with conditions of service that in turn affect their performance and therefore need to be addressed.
- May become incapacitated from sickness arising from their occupation or external sources.
- May commit misconducts that shall require resolving through the disciplinary system.
- May decide to withdraw their labour due to a correct or perceived injustice from their employment.
- May have workplace safety concerns that must be resolved.
- Have specific skills challenges that is affecting their performance.
From these are offshoots of problems that complicate the relationship between the leaders and their staff that must be attended to for workplace order to be maintained. Leaders who we may refer to as “managers” in this write up need a dedicated colleague who will ensure that policies are in place, a platform and method of attending and addressing these problems are available.
You notice that of all leadership positions that we have mentioned thus far none has a title ending or starting with the word “human”. This leads us to decide that the most appropriate leader who should dedicate himself/herself in assisting colleagues in resolving people issues at the workplace is the Human Resource Practitioner “HRP” whose title is prefixed with the word “human” or “people”.
Let us explore some of people management areas or issues that would burden organisations’ leaders and distract them from their duties if the HRP was not part of the leadership:
Employment of personnel; This is a critical responsibility of the HRP. He/she must ensure that personnel with the right skills and attitude are engaged so that they will be able to carry out tasks that are inherent in their occupations. He/she does this by producing a Job Description (JD) followed by a Person Specification (PS) with the input of leaders. Their input is to ensure that only relevant information relating to tasks to be carried out by job incumbents in each occupation is captured and recorded in the JBs and PSs.
Engaging an employee whose qualifications do not conform to a JB and PS of his/her occupation can create performance problems in the achievement of planned production in the department into which he/she is assigned causing distractions that wastes time for his/her leaders to resolve.
Conditions of service; These cover many spheres such as remuneration, welfare issues, health matters, transport allowances, working hours, lunch breaks, bonuses, uniforms and clothing issuances as examples. The HRP formulates rules and procedures for staff to follow. Imagine each department leader making rules to satisfy his/her personnel the chaos that would ensue in the organisation would be insurmountable.
The HRP synthesises all departmental needs into standard ones to ensure equality among all employees removing disillusionment that could cause disharmony in his/her organisation.
Policies; Can include those that deal with loans, education assistance, established periodical bonuses, motor vehicle usage and disposal, bereavement assistance, health care assistance, training, education, retirement arrangements and relocation allowances among many others. Some of the issues under conditions of service can also be part of established policies.
The HRP can demonstrate to his/her leadership team that by having agreed policies in place consistency and uniformity in the manner employees are treated is in the main guaranteed. In the agreed policies an organisation through its leaders has a “handbook” which provides direction on how staff matters, concerns or grievances shall be handled.
This allows managers time to concentrate on productivity instead of wasting time thinking of how they will solve a similar problem when it confronts them from different employees.
Training; The HRP’s position on training is to advise and convince his/her organisation’s leaders that it improves skills, attitude and behaviour of employees so that they can work to required standards but that, for this to be achieved it has to be systematic. He/she illustrates that this starts with analysing training needs then deciding what training should be provided and to who, arranging training facilities and resources thereafter conducting the prescribed training.
After training has been conducted and the trained staff have returned to implement what they were taught, a review is undertaken to verify the effectiveness of the training that had been provided. The HRP ensures that leaders understand that any future training to be conducted will replicate this process and furthermore it will require coordination with them to succeed. It is the writer’s considered view that a dedicated official to carry out this task is the HRP.
Education; Staff need to learn what their organisation stands for, the importance of their occupations and how these fit in with the overall operations strategy, the role and place of stakeholders, the disadvantage of causing damage to assets, and the benefits of team work among many other factors. They must be educated on policies, rules and Code of Conduct for peace to prevail in the organisation.
Whilst managers can attempt to attend to these, their responsibilities will not allow them to dedicate sufficient time on these matters without their roles being negatively impacted. The role of managers is to assist their HRP in getting an education programme organised and conducted.
Accident prevention; Accidents can drain an organisation’s financial resources from damage caused to property and or remove needed labour from tasks that need to be performed because of injury they sustain. The HRP must invest time and resources in learning and understanding what a Safety Programme consists so that he/she can demonstrate to his/her colleagues its relevance in preventing accidents at the workplace. This is a critical task that an HRP must convince managers and workers to support for the sustenance of an organisation.
Staff welfare; The HRP has responsibility to advise leaders that, employees at times are unable to satisfy their welfare needs both at work and home requiring management to intervene. These could be the provision of housing, canteen facilities, habitable ablution blocks, transport facilities, recreation facilities and clinics. The provision of these facilities contributes to improved staff health condition – a prerequisite for a safe worker.
Succession planning; Leaders for their own benefit and that of their staff will find a properly constructed Succession Plan (SP) a progressive instrument to their personal development. The HRP will work with all officials in charting a succession path for employees under consideration.
He/she emphasises that Training and Development plans for individual employees and recommendations from Performance Appraisal system feature in a SP. In organisations with a large workforce the HRP may find it necessary to appoint a dedicated officer to administer the SP diligently.
We shall conclude the list of human resource works that lifts the burden off other managers shoulders in the second and last instalment.
Kingfrey Chizema is a Past President of both the Zimbabwe Institute of Management (ZIM) and the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe (IPMZ). He writes in his personal capacity.