Human Resources seems to be ever changing. It has moved from providing a purely personnel function focusing mostly on administration to a more supportive functionacknowledging the value of employees as an organisational resource.
However, referring to employees as capital or resources suggests that people are valued mainly for their money making potential. It refers to “the productive capacities of human beings as income-producing agents in an economy” (Hornbeck & Salamon). If one were to analyse the discourse used, it would be easy to see that employees are viewed as an investment. When describing people in those terms, one can also describe people as liabilities or assets, which is dehumanising. Employees are no longer viewed as people, but commodities and money-making machines. “Income-producing agents” suggests that employees are simply there to produce a specific outcome, namely making money for the organisation, and have no other needs to be fulfilled in the working environment.
Google now speaks of a People Operations division. As the narrative begins to change, so should the processes concerning the People Division.
In an ever-changing world, characterised by increasing globalisation, tougher competition, rapid technological changes and employees’ capabilities and priorities, there HR needs to move away from simply dealing with resources, to become a strategic business partner, whereby it plays a key role in assisting organisations to navigate through these transitions and view people as the driving force of the change.
The People Division requires a change of mindset. One way of achieving this is by having the People Division create an “agile workforce”. Agile principles change the focus from imposing controls and standards to empowering collaboration and innovation. These principles can be described as a from-to comparison, such as:
- From a remedial approach to learning (training is prescribed for employees who are underperforming or who are preparing for a new role) to a continuous learning environment (employees are given many opportunities to learn and develop themselves independent of a specific, job-related goal).
- From a “recruiting” mindset (as a vacancy appears, a person is found to fill it) to a continuous talent acquisition mindset (organisations invest in their employees and nurture talent within the organisation).
- From opaque talent processes (talent management is owned by HR, and the processes by which talent is acquired, evaluated and developed are hidden and inaccessible) to transparent access to talent information (talent management is facilitated by HR, which empowers employees to take ownership of their own development. Employees understand and are active participants in talent acquisition, evaluation and development processes).
- From a hierarchical structure (decision-making power centralised at the top) to empowering (employees are empowered to make decisions in their speciality).
- From annual performance management (annual cascading performance objectives and reviews) to flexible performance management (performance objectives that can easily change based on quarterly targets or group objectives. Frequent, real-time performance feedback from multiple sources).
- From HR as “system of record” (the HR function is focused on record-keeping and defensibility. HR success is measured in the completeness of documentation) to HR as a “system of engagement” (the HR function is focused on engaging employees to enhance self-motivation and encourage collaboration. HR success is measured in terms of retention, employee satisfaction and innovation levels).
- From siloed objectives (jobs are discrete elements in a complex system. Job requirements are related to specific workplace tasks) to unified mission and values (all jobs directly support the mission and values of the organisation, and all employees understand how their performance supports the organisational culture).