Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Meshing Human Resources processes with business complexity 2: rethinking workplace requirements 1

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on December 21, 2013

This is my second installment to a series on the new and emerging workplace, and developing personnel policy and practices to better meet the needs of a 21st century business (see Part 1.) And I start this posting by noting that:

• Both employees and prospective employees, and businesses that would hire and retain them face new opportunities and new challenges in our 21st century business climate and economy,
• And they face different personnel policy and practice requirements than they have faced in the past and certainly through the earlier careers of most of today’s senior managers and executives.

From the employee and prospective employee perspective, people in the workforce and seeking entry into it face increasing demands for skills that cannot be outsourced, automated or simply done away with. For background references on these rapidly evolving issues see:

• My directory: Outsourcing and Globalization, and particularly the series: Outsourcing as a Business Paradigm (at that directory as postings 4 and following for its Parts 1-7), and
Some Thoughts on the Emerging Workplace and Employability Great Restructuring 1 and its Part 2 continuation for discussions on workplace automation and job and career path elimination.

At the same time, and for those who can offer skills and experience needed in their employment marketplace, terms of employment options are expanding with flex time, job sharing, telecommuting and a range of other options emerging as employment options (see employee-oriented references on this listed in Part 1.)

• Widening the range of terms of employment and for how and where employees would work in fulfilling their job responsibilities, makes it easier for those employees to hold jobs and to fulfill their work responsibilities for them.
• And businesses that support and even encourage wider and more flexible terms of employee engagement can attract a wider range of potential employees and make themselves more competitively attractive when seeking the best job candidates in their employment marketplace. This can be particularly important when seeking out employees with high demand cutting edge skills, where employer demand exceeds marketplace supply.
• But businesses have generally been resistant to change from the standard full-time and in-house paradigm that I wrote of in Part 1 as the traditional terms of employment. And in our increasingly online connected workplace and world, businesses that push away from these opportunities avoidably put themselves at a competitive disadvantage for securing and keeping the best employees available – who they need in order to gain and retain competitive strength in their marketplaces.

I began writing about the issues of this posting in Part 1 where I noted in passing how temporary and part-time employees have traditionally been viewed and treated as second class employees in comparison to full-time in-house employees. True, there can be very valid reasons for not offering the benefits packages to part-time help that would be available to full-time employees, and particularly when benefits such as healthcare coverage are considered and where employers can pay half or more of an employee’s premium expenses. But self-inflicted problems arise when this same insider/outsider approach is applied to terms and conditions of work and employment, and to support of or denial of rights to flex-time, telecommuting or other work engagement options.

Many businesses view even just part-time telecommuting for their full-time employees with suspicion. Their concern is that employees who work off-site and from home or other non-business settings will systematically waste time on personal activities instead of diligently performing their paid-for duties, and underperform. They assume that a telecommuting employee will spend significant amounts of their time on the clock not working when they should be.

• Businesses and their managers and HR personnel arrive at this opinion from thinking strictly in terms of the dynamics of a pre-interactive online workplace and world.
• In our increasingly ubiquitously online and interactively connected world, an employee can be as actively and immediately connected-in even when they are multiple time zones away, as they would be if they were simply sitting in a cubicle or office just down the hall.

The disconnect that I write of here between employer expectation and concerns, and this new and emerging reality is based upon an outdated understand of our current and still rapidly expanding communications and connectivity capabilities. And I offer this specific scenario as a paradigmatic example of how what can be seen as more traditional personnel policy, can be out of step with both business practice risks and business opportunities and needs.

This and similar disconnects that I write of here may play out more directly in the decisions and actions of managers and supervisors, and in those of hiring managers as new employees are sought out and selected for hire. But their decisions and actions all stem from and coordinate with personnel policy and the business’ overall personnel practices. Ultimately, it is Human Resources that sets the standard that will be followed as far as terms of employment and work scheduling are concerned. And it is HR that has to sign-off on accepting any change in how this is done and for what is accepted as that business’ approach to working with its employees.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, doing so from a cost/benefits and risk management perspective. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel.

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