The role of Human Resources (HR) personnel is not just to recruit people, but also be in sync with the organisation’s business goals. Prachi Rege speaks to experts about the changes, skills and manpower crunch in the HR world
Human Resource management is an important job function that primarily deals with recruiting employees in an organisation. It involves managing people right from the time they enter a company till their exit from the same. Since people are a complex entity, the responsibility of selecting and managing their employment process is a complicated one. In the recent past, HR has transformed into a mainstream function as it is tasked with finding and retaining appropriate talent for an organisation.
It helps businesses with one of the most critical input factors responsible for growth and progress – people.
Over the years, HR has focused on designing policies that answer an organisation’s needs, thereby becoming an effective business partner. However, in this process, there is always a risk of ignoring the employee’s perspective. Today, HR managers aim to be a friend of the employee and a business partner of the employer. As tough as it sounds, it is imperative for a HR manager to understand what the business needs and adjust the system accordingly, while keeping the needs of the employees in perspective. “They should never lose sight of the fact that they have to handle employee aspirations and ensure a fair treatment,” says L Gurunathan, professor, HR Management, XLRI- Xavier School of Management.According to Gurunathan, the selection and evolution of the curriculum is an important pedagogy tool in this field. “One must be careful to not to fall for jargons or fads. While we do cater to sectors by launching targeted courses, the focus is always on training students in fundamentals.”
Race to the top
These days, a number of organisations have career HR personnel in CEO roles. In any case, it is difficult for a CEO to discharge his/her functions without good people management skills. Even in non-corporate segments like politics, military or space research, leadership is judged by people management skills. “Leaders cannot aspire to become a CEO unless they have reasonable HR experience in their respective department. It makes them a well rounded professional in people management, leadership and organisation culture building,” says TS Krishnakumar, Chief Operation Officer, IKYA Human Capital Solutions.
As HR is a strategic function, with due diligence, the job role could qualify a person for top positions. Gurunathan explains that it does not always depend on the function, but on the person and a facilitating organisational culture. In some industries where people are a more critical/ rare resource, the HR function has more opportunities to show impact. According to Sucharita P, global head - People Policies and Practices, Tech Mahindra, “HR managers should have an in-depth business understanding as well as financial orientation. Only then can they qualify for the top role.”
Impact of changes
The changes in the industry have made the HR functions tougher. “Today, we strategically look into the productivity of employees in alignment with the overall growth of the organisation. The focus is on the bigger picture – what performance the organisation is expecting and what kind of people are required to achieve that performance?,” says Ruchi Dhawan Sharma, DGM-HR, The Muthoot Group. According to Krishnakumar, the change in functioning has had a positive imapct on the overall profession. “People management skills cannot be taught at B-schools. They are built on experience during one’s corporate lifecycle,” he adds. Sharma further adds that an HR professional, gets the opportunity to learn across functions and not remain confined only to his/ her department. Experts suggest that such kind of understanding builds confidence and helps in strategic decision making—qualities essential for the top job.
Skills to manage people
Companies have started looking for professionals with business skills in HR roles who understand the pulse of the business, and develop policies that help them grow, rather than chartering a dissonant HR scheme. Strong decision making skills, communication skills, multiple stakeholder perspectives, sensitivity to people’s needs are few essential qualities of a HR professional. In addition, good analytical skills and a love for numbers are also important since it is often easier to support ideas and initiatives through numbers rather than plain theory. “Skills also depend on the level and functional role of the manager. But empathy, business understanding, innovation and employee orientation are key competencies in this field,” explains Suchitra.
Like other fields and departments in an organisation, HR too faces the people crunch. There is constant struggle in the industry to find HR personnel with the perfect blend of people and business skills. According to experts, one reason for the dearth of people could be that not many young professionals opt to make a career in the HR field. “Quality HR managers are in short supply. There is certainly a crunch at the middle and senior levels,” signs off Gurunathan.