What is a modern day HR Manager? That question has puzzled the HR industry to no end, and there is no definitive answer. Modern day businesses and their markets are complex, and so are their leaders.
Industrial Relations (IR) legislation has been somewhat simplified since the Fair Work Act was introduced in 2010, and at the time, the nationalised IR system was a giant leap forward. Still, it was long overdue, and still not entirely suited to the demands of globalised markets.
If we consider the disruption faced by businesses since 2010, isn’t it obvious that no one really knows what tomorrow holds? The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) suggests 40% of Australian jobs won’t exist in 20 years, due to technological disruption alone.
The question we really need to ask is what will help the HR profession and business owners to transition with constant disruption? And, which models of HR can HR practitioners and SMEs adopt to remain competitive, attract, retain and stay engaged with their current and future workforce?
What is happening out there?
No matter how much disruption and technological advancement occurs, people issues will always remain. In fact, new types of challenges are appearing every day, like:
- Managing skill shortages
- Globalised labour markets (offshoring)
- Encouraging leaders to espouse a specific company culture
- Forecasting risks and trends and identifying skill gaps
- Complying with legislation
- Understanding employment law
- Learning how to leverage big data and analytics, and
- Selecting the best HR information management systems to support long-term growth.
Furthermore, gone are the days when a team manager was a highly competent technical expert, alone. This means HR practitioners need to add real value on a strategic level, helping leaders to coach and manage with emotional intelligence.
Today, HR’s role is therefore to strategically partner with business leaders so they can deliver such value. And this in itself will require a highly technical yet emotionally intelligent, strategic yet focused on delivery, big-thinking yet detail-orientated, and incredibly analytical person.
‘Does this kind of wunderkind exist?’ I hear you ask.
With a big HR budget you can build a team that ticks all boxes, but SMEs need to make a decision. What HR skills do we hire, and what systems or support do we outsource?
What will your business look like in the future?
The answer to that question tells us what level of internal HR expertise we need, and largely (excuse the pun), depends on the size of your business.
The ‘small’ business
With up to 15 permanent employees, the small business most likely does not have any qualified HR practitioners, making them high-risk with Fair Work compliance issues. But, the small business can handle people and performance issues quickly, and that makes them nimbler and more able to adapt quickly to market changes.
The good news is that there are now cloud-based, affordable systems that can take care of all compliance woes for small business. These flexible, low-cost HR management solutions are perfect for their employee records and statutory record keeping.
While systems can take care of compliance and shoulder the brunt of HR administration for the business, some get value from engaging a strategic HR consultancy to ensure their team structures, position descriptions and performance metrics are optimised and tangible, and will deliver the commercial growth they seek. That partnership can be tapped-into on an ad-hoc basis.
The medium-sized’ business
With a workforce of up to 100 employees, these businesses typically have an HR administrator or coordinator acting in a HR Manager capacity. This means the basics of compliance, payroll, recruitment and terminations should be under control.
But medium-sized businesses typically lack capability in HR strategy, and the management of change, and they’ll suffer greatly without a Vision, Mission and Values piece that translates to an “Employer Brand” and strong internal culture.
In comparison to the small business, business owners of a 100-strong team cannot be present in every recruitment activity or management discussion between leaders and their staff. And so, the culture and values a business owner espouses (that got this business to where it is today) will be lost when employees aren’t connected to those values each day. This is where a strategic HR consultancy is worth their weight in gold, and can drive your revenue and growth faster and further.
A larger business typically employs hundreds of staff, and may operate across numerous locations. Depending on industry and location, it may need a localised set of operating standards to comply with state legislation or the demands of the local employment market.
Traditionally, a large business would place a single or multiple HR practitioners in regional locations to support operational leaders. The problem here is that these people become focused on transactional, low-value activity at the demand of busy managers.
The HR manager of tomorrow in a larger business is more likely to bring all HR into a central team or location and adopt cloud based HR management systems to relieve HR practitioners of transactional activity. This way, operational leaders and/or their administrative support can use the system to a point, and HR can focus on more commercially valuable opportunities.
The HR Manager of the future will therefore develop an overarching HR management strategy as a priority, and it will be executed from within. Larger businesses will therefore still need a strategic HR leader inside the organisation, with a high-level overview of operations as they converge with two, three and five-year plans.
This HR Manager should always be thinking long-term, and consistently evolving strategies, like:
- Creating an attractive company culture;
Are you ready?
Like most professions, HR needs to be ready to leverage technological disruption. The HR Manager of tomorrow is a strategic advisor, an expert in marrying technology with manpower, and uses technology and analytics to lessen the transactional burden on HR.
It is critical for SMEs to identify where they are now, where they’re heading in terms of people-growth, and exactly when that growth will occur. The HR Manager that takes you from 15 to 100 employees is not going to be the same HR manager that moves you from 100 staff to a 500 strong workforce.
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