Should HR Have A Strategic Role In Your Organisation?
By Kate Pierson
Somewhere in between taming rogue organisations that function as unpredictably as a two year old and helping overly-bureaucratic organisations take a professional chill pill so they are less tied up in policy and more focused on productivity, human resources got somewhat of a bad rep.
The lack of love for HR might come down to the oft used accountability avoider familiarly known as ‘the blame game’, or it could be the result of a lingering public consensus that HR employees find it hard enough to get themselves dressed in the morning, let alone help run a business — the source of cynicism is anyone’s guess.
On the media circuit and behind closed doors, there have been phrases as paradoxical and extreme as ‘totalitarian dictatorship’ and ‘frighteningly incompetent’ bandied about in relation to HR departments — because when it comes to HR, the complaints tend to come thick and fast and from all ends of the spectrum.
Freelance journalist Karl Du Fresne discussed the frenetic nature of HR departments in his article published in The Dominion Post in February 2010. Of HR in the noughties, he said, “Make no mistake — this was the decade of the human resource department. Cleverly picking up on Mao Zedong’s idea of permanent revolution, HR managers ensured the organisations that employed them were kept in a constant state of disruption and uncertainty, merrily disestablishing old jobs and creating new ones, then watching everyone fight over them.
“The cost to the economy, in terms of time and energy wasted by endless reorganisation while real work got left undone, is anyone’s guess. But the real brilliance of the HR revolution was that it kept people so anxious and distracted that no one thought to ask an obvious question: do we really need HR departments?
That is the million dollar question one could say. And, in line with this, we should also be asking if all the condemnation is really warranted? Has HR simply become a punching bag for our professionals? A scapegoat for our own ineptitude? Whatever the reason for the HR industry being stamped with a seal of disapproval, it’s important to look at it its role in organisations devoid of cynicism.
Director of Human Synergistics NZ Ltd, Shaun McCarthy, became involved with consulting in 1974 and introduced Human Synergistics in 1979. For more than 25 years, Human Synergistics’ Integrated Development System has been producing documented growth in individuals, groups and organisations.
The company’s diagnostic instruments and accreditation services provide support to hundreds of consultants world-wide, inspiring unique perspectives on organisational structures, systems and technology and the impact these have on human behaviour and organisational performance
Needless to say, McCarthy has a comprehensive understanding of HR departments and their role in New Zealand organisations. His immediate response to the presence of HR departments is, “Any successful organisation will have a strategic HR resource. HR is the change agent when it comes to adaptability and recognises that today and tomorrow will always be different.”
McCarthy argues that HR has a vested interest in every element of the company and has multi-faceted potential. “It is the function in an organisation which has a pan perspective. It would be nonsensical for it not to have pan perspective and involvement because when you get it right, HR is a major strategic resource and has an internal stability function.”
So what constitutes good HR? First and foremost McCarthy says it is important to recognise that HR is always a function whether there is a department dedicated to it or not and sometimes people can get caught up in the term ‘department’.
“If people always see it as a department there are irrelevancies. If it is seen as a function then it is critical.
“A good HR function in a small company or HR department in a larger organisation is one that developments organisational models to support and drive that company’s performance,” McCarthy says.
At the time of Du Fresne’s article in early 2010, he questioned the future of HR departments, noting that 49 management and administration roles including the entire HR department at Capital and Coast District Health were on the verge of being cut. He thought it ironic that HR could fall victim to the very revolution it set in motion.
For more information on Shaun McCarthy and Human Synergistics New Zealand Ltd visit www.hsnz.co.nz