Should Human Resources (HR) take on non HR related work

Should Human Resources (HR) take on non HR related work

In Asia, very often HR folks are assigned with other non HR related work; the most common being administrative functions, and in other cases, security, IT, purchasing or even property management etc. This is not just prevalent in SMEs where resources are scarce and employees are maximised to the fullest, but also in sizable companies that can afford to have a dedicated HR function staff. This phenomenon is especially true in China where HR always entails the administrative functions, and in worse cases, all of the above mentioned. By and large, Human Resources in Asia is still relatively a new concept compared to western countries. As such, many Asia employers do not understand the value and importance of HR and frequently treat HR as an administrative function, hence capping what HR can do for the business.

Instead of spending time on other non-core HR duties, below are key areas where HR staff should dedicate their time and effort on:

1.     Solving HR issues in the operations

When an organization's operations are properly managed, the functions of all other departments are smooth, and when an organization's operations are managed improperly, all other departments suffer. As in most cases, business operations house the most staff and thus it is where HR presence should be felt, since the bulk of HR issue arises from operations and if not taken care of timely, leads to bigger issues. Only with a strong understanding of the operations can HR gather feedback and implement logical and effective policies.

2.     Implementing a holistic HR framework

The most important task for HR is to implement and administer a holistic HR framework that integrates all aspects of the HR functions (eg compensation and benefits, policy, staffing, performance management, learning and development, talent management, employee relations, manpower management etc) to Attract, Reward and Retain good performers, Develops potentials and ensures business continuity. For instance, for a Talent Strategy to work, a holistic HR approach that links various aspects of the HR function is crucial. Each critical aspect of the HR function is designed to play a part in supporting the Talent Strategy, and the result is a holistic approach that addresses various needs (of the talent as well as the company); the staffing aspect looks at the source of talents, both internally and externally and bring in talents through various platforms. Thereafter, the talent management aspect kicks in and high potentials are identified by a systematic process. The treatment of a high potential involves various aspects such as the compensation and benefits framework to remunerate him at competitive market levels, performance management to administer KPIs that are tied to bonus to spur higher performance. While monetary rewards are taken care of, the talent management aspect ensures that the talent is being put on an accelerated career track and given developmental opportunities. All these show that the company is serious in the investment in human capital and helps the company in its succession planning. The above are just a part of the talent strategy. 

3.     Managing the HR function like a profit centre

Instead of running as a cost centre, HR folks can run the HR function like a profit centre by charging other departments for the services it renders. The charges can reflect the rates the business managers would have to pay if acquired externally. The value HR contributes to the organization can be further measured by metrics such as cost savings from self-sufficient recruitment efforts, training grants utilization, HR project implementation (cost up and compare the costs if such same services were done using consultants and line managers). In addition, if HR folks can deliver excellent HR services, such services can also be contracted to other companies at a cost. For instance, IBM had developed its HR Service center not just serving its own internal needs, but also created an externally-facing version that offered HR services to the other businesses.

The above are just 3 points for HR folks to devote all of their time upon. By performing the above, I strongly believe the value HR can bring to the business far exceeds that of doing non HR related work. However, to levitate the HR function to such importance requires a paradigm shift of culture and mind-sets of the employers. Many HR folks who are in the plight of being dumped with other non HR related work would have to first gain the trust of their employers to talk about bringing changes. 

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