Productivity: Is HR Missing the Opportunity to Shine?

While HR staff rightly concern itself with measures that have a direct impact on productivity, such as seeking to reduce sickness and absence and indirectly through improving staff engagement, is there more that if can to be done?  This is particularly the case in labour intensive industries such as healthcare, education, government and professional services, where staff are the largest cost.

Making workforce plans

When economies need to be made, typically finance cuts next year's budget and then expects managers to get on with it.  This means there is very little time to plan changes, which can result in redundancy costs or freezing essential posts, merely because they were the first ones that fall vacant.  In the worst cases, newly redundant staff are re-employed as expensive consultants, because the ill thought out cuts went too far. HR is left to pick up the pieces.  If HR undertook a workforce plan which was integrated with the financial plan, workforce issues could be addressed at a much earlier phase and could, in places, influence the overall direction of the organisation. 

Strengthening the role of HR

In addition, productivity can be best achieved through engaging staff and implementing lean principles, which HR could facilitate, with a little bit of training.  HR is also in a good position to take a horizontal view of functions like administration.  The productivity improvement role would also strengthen the position of HR as a business partner. 

HR people understand people

Some HR business partners have an excellent understanding of the key productivity measures and the drivers of change, such as the impact of new processes and changing technology, while there are others who do not.  Some HR people are like GPs, with a great, intuitive understanding of people, who excel in one-to-one interactions and problem solving.  The challenge for them is to step back and explore the root causes of the problems that come knocking on their door.  Another aspect is to have the time to spend with operational staff, to walk the job with them and see where their frustrations lie.  It is also a matter of talking to the technical experts about changes around the corner that could have a big impact on the number, type of jobs and skills that will be required. 

If you feel that you or your staff want to grasp this opportunity, look no further than the HR Society.  We are dedicated to the business edge of HR and run a wide range of courses in this field.  Check out our current courses.

Posted by George Blair on May 21st 2013

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