Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Human Resources and adaptation to change 1: the many faces of change

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on January 12, 2013

Life is change, and that holds for individuals and groups and entire societies, and for businesses and other organizations as they fit into the midst of that continuum. Life is change and it is an ongoing realization of, and response to change’s varying possibilities and consequences.

• I have been exploring this as it plays out on an individual basis in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Part 2 continuation and at my HR and Personnel directory too for many of its postings and series.
• I have also been writing about change and its impact on businesses. That holds for when I am discussing startups and early stage businesses, and businesses seeking to grow beyond that level (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses). It holds for when I am discussing more mature and established businesses as they face challenges, arising from within or from the outside or both (seeBusiness Strategy and Operations and its Part 2 continuation listings.)
• I have in fact been discussing change and trends that businesses and society as a whole are moving toward, going into this 21st century, throughout this blog.
• Here and in this series I will explicitly discuss and explore the role that Human Resources plays in all of this, and for individual employees and for the business as a whole, and as HR activity and policy impact on supply chain partners and other businesses, and on communities of consumers and customers too. And I will discuss how goals and priories and needs that would be addressed by Human Resources can differ between groups and along this continuum of levels of organization, and how those differences might be identified and reconciled.

I start with the level of the individual job candidate and of the employee for those hired in this, and with that including consultants and contract workers and those who pursue other non-traditional employment and career options, as well as more traditional full-time in-house employees. And I begin that here by citing a repeatedly validated observation that is at least given lip service by most businesses – but that is still often considered a trite truism or a throw-away line by many. But it is a crucially important observation and one that can serve as a fundamental starting point for business analysis, planning and execution so I build from it here in my discussion to follow:

• A business’ employees really are its most important assets – always.

And yes, I would argue that this applies to:

• Businesses that primarily employ short-term contract workers and part time help, and with fast turnover as to who is on payroll at any given time. The faces may change but essentially all business activity and all profitability come from their labor.
• This also applies and with equal force for businesses that primarily see themselves in terms of their patent-protected, trade secret-protected our otherwise proprietary knowledge-driven resources and capabilities.
• My point here is that this does not just apply to businesses with stable, long-term employees who individually develop deep and sustaining knowledge about their business they work for and its products and services, and its methods and procedures and history. This applies to all businesses.

And in this, and regardless of business model or pattern of employment followed, Human Resources wears multiple hats – and even for businesses that seek to keep HR functionality to a service level-minimum for what it offers and does (see my series: When and If It Might Make Sense to Outsource Human Resources at HR and Personnel, starting with its posting 134 and scattered following, and particularly its Part 2 where I define and discuss lean HR and robust HR systems.)

• Human Resources is responsible for managing personnel, and it takes ownership of the vast majority of standardized and routinized practices, processes and procedures that constitute the basic pattern as to how individual employees relate to and work with their employer. Operationally this runs from the hiring and onboarding process and all the way through to separation or retirement and even beyond, as continued interaction and association may take place.
• Exceptions to this tend to be functionally specialized, as for example where Finance manages payroll and other direct monetary distribution issues, and Information Technology handles matters related to business information access, and use of information technology resources. For anything that would be included within or significantly connect to Personnel matters per se, Human Resources at the very least should be involved in it.

And this brings me to a first potential area for at least perceived differences and even conflicts of priority that HR has to be able to address and reconcile:

• If employees and personnel on-staff are a business’ most valuable and important long term asset, then one of the roles of HR and as a core component of its staff retention efforts should be to encourage and enable individual employees as they pursue careers and professional growth.
• But particularly with businesses that see employees are basically replaceable from the outside available labor pool, but also for many businesses in general, any expenses and effort exerted in that direction can become challenged, and with tight demands on accountability and for return on investment to the business itself on short time frames.
• Effective Human Resources policy, practices and leadership has to find viable approaches that meet both employee and business needs and concerns in this.

Stepping back from that specific issue, I ground this series on the individual employee and their experience as it is shaped and influenced by Human Resources and its processes and practices, and by their working experience at the business as a whole.

In my next series installment I will begin looking at the businesses as a whole that these employees work for, as those businesses themselves face challenges and opportunities. More specifically I will begin a more detailed discussion as to how Human Resources practices and policies need to be effectively in synch with the rest of the organization, and both operationally and strategically in helping to create business value in the face of change. I will successively discuss the role of HR in facing and creating value from a series of specific challenges and opportunities that businesses can and do face, and that can and do shape management’s views on what employees need and should be offered, and how. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel.

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