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The Ecstasy and Agony of working as a HR professional in Organisations Today

By: Shurlly Tiwari- HR faculty (ISME, Bangalore)
True HR power comes in influencing business outcomes, rather than just reporting what happened”- Dr. Edward Siegal

In today’s dynamic world, HR professionals go through a trip of ecstasy and agony. Professionals are ecstatic, while conducting HR functions as well as giving them shape, but this feeling fades away when their decisions are over ruled either by the technology, line managers or by the Team- Leads. For example in the recruitment function the position , job description , job evaluation and job specification …everything is given by the project lead or project manager , and the final decision for the recruitment is also  taken by the project lead , in such cases HR behaves only as an  executioner. 

Though during the professional courses students are trained that HR is one of the key departments of the business and has certain functions to perform, however in reality all, the functions are business driven or line manger driven.

Most of the times, these decisions are either overruled or are influenced. Corporate world realises the importance of Human Resource Department and these days it’s also been realised as strategic business partner . But when there is a call to be taken between employee and business, business always wins.

Technology has helped immensely in performing Hr functions but after a certain point it is also data driven. HR professionals find it very comfortable, but at the same time they find it tough to be implemented so the problem is not only “having the data “but also “knowing how to use it “ which matters. All the benefits achieved by HR are known as soft benefits rather than hard benefits and its difficult to put a dollar value to them.

As stated by Neil Nickolaisen, chief technology officer at O.C Tanner , in an interview to  Human- Capital – if he were to rank his internal clients on the basis of their importance , the HR team is always the last , since all the leaders are going to support the money making side of the business , rather than the cost saving side.

The above statement highlights very clearly that though, HR department is one of the most important department, but the value that HR function receives, is still not at its full potential.

In this era of Change, creativity and innovation , HR professionals are always ahead , HR takse the help of  the technologies like Artificial intelligence , Data analytics etc. these techniques helps the department in developing good data as well as workable  solution . HR caters to the need to Challenge and motivate employees. Here comes the real need and challenge for the HR department to impact the business, but the emotional turmoil is that the department goes through like in the process of restructuring, retrenchment and different kind of changes within the organisations creates a lot of agony in the department.

Most companies decide on to the new engagement programs, new tools to reduce attrition, new benefits etc. for the employees but in such programmes also the final decision favours the businesses and not the employees. In addition, eventually HR department has to cut a sorry figure in front of its employees.

Since HR is also the bridge between the management and the employees, sometimes it becomes really difficult to make employees understand the management point of view, in such cases HR is potrayed as a villain in front of internal customers. for eg: Manesar case of Maruti Suzuki.

The main lookout of HR is the following:


The above chart explains the evolution of HR department, but the agony and ecstasy of HR still remains.

Main Challenge: Is HR a competitive Advantage?

The role of Human resource is changing in the current scenario, people are now questioning on HR being a competitive advantage for any firm. Any organisation earns a competitive advantage when people “Stay”, “Say” and “Strive “in that organisation.  “Stay” becomes one of the important criteria for any organisation for eg. TATA, its employees stay with TATA for years and years together.

It is observed that, employee benefits and HR best practices are a way to attract talent but for retention, a company requires “say” for eg. Best of the companies like Google, P& G follow the best practices and employee practices, but still the retention of employees is highest with TATA.. …Why?

So, it’s not only the best practices about the company which matters but also what an employee says about the company matters. Now-a-days employers have become cautious about “employer branding” and “product branding” and this can be achieved if the employees of that company are saying good about the organisation.  …there are several ways of motivating  an employee to say good about the organisation in the external environment  and one of them is “Organisational Justice” .

The third parameter by which an organisation can convert itself into an amazing organisation to work with is “Strive” , it helps the employees to improve their performance and also to improve the performance of the company. It increases the commitment levels of the employee and helps in developing OCB.

But all of these three things that is , “Stay, Say and Strive “ will happen when there is trust environment in an organisation(William Ouchi,2001).

As an HR professional it is a huge task, to develop a trust culture in the organisation. And the agony starts when the management does not support in such function because, development of trust requires patience, which most of the organisations don’t have.

Another very strong ecstasy moment for the HR professional is Analytics. Recently its demand is increasing in the market ,and it helps the professionals in reasoning and putting logic for their actions. For  e.g. Google has changed its Recruitment and Selection process (  from 17 steps to 7 steps) based on the analysis done for the Recruitment & Selection method , which clearly tells that most of the steps used were  not  helping the line manager to judge the absolute skill of the candidate  , so it took a decision for reducing the steps.

Similarly, analytics is used in Performance Appraisal, Training and Development, etc which gives greater credibility.

Human Resource management is considered as one of the most important functions in the building of an organisation, but the reputation of HR department will not improve unless the decision making power is not given to HR.

The HR professionals are suffering from ecstasy and angst because of the unclear roles and the power of decision-making. And in today’s world of corporate HR professionals have to improve their image by giving strong inputs in the decision making proves and in this analytics will help them.

They have to speak in the language of numbers and logic and give suggestions, which are fruitful for the organisation and are helpful in taking important strategic decisions.

HR plays a different role in different industries, like in IT , its role is very minimal but in manufacturing industry , its role huge and influential. Industry is realising the role of Hr in strategy building and is also recognising the value it brings on to the table ,only requirement is to deliver the expectations.
1.       Human Capital – July2017
2.       HBR- Feb2018