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Senior executives should treat HR departments with respect

While top bosses happily acknowledge that all employees are important, they all too often think HR departments are a pain

For a company to achieve long-term success, they need to have a clear understanding and idea of how employees are expected to behave, and should monitor closely what they do in pursuit of the company’s overall goals. After all, staff are a company’s most important asset.

Actions speak louder than words, and it is rare in any major company to find the person who on paper has the responsibility for “people” anywhere near the centre of power.

Are HR departments really given the recognition they deserve? A few big companies — including Unilever, Atkins and Whitbread — have had the HR director on the board in recent times but most do not, even if there are some signs of progress among FTSE 250 companies.

The reality is that HR departments are too often seen as a pain, staffed by people who pursue esoteric agendas that bear little relation to the day-to-day needs of the business.

As a result, those executives see no contradiction in saying that the future of the business depends on the quality of its people while still outsourcing human resources services.

With the advances in technology today, the business world is being transformed and many departments are amalgamating such as HR, Marketing and Finance. In fact, many service roles will soon be replaced by technology.  Organisations are ultimately aware that they will have to restructure and change fundamentally to keep up with the times and survive.

Skilled HR workers could have key roles in this evolving process – but only if they are willing to adapt and think strategically about what the business needs.  An HR director who is respected by his team and able to delegate, design and decide on particular strategies is going to become an absolute prerequisite.

Ideally, today’s HR people should become specialists in creating strategies that deliver better-run businesses on a continual basis.  Although most HR professionals are well aware of the change, they need to strive to reach out of their comfort zone, raise their game and understand the key drivers of the business they are employed in to demand a place at the centre of stage.

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