HR plays a key role in driving business success

Kelly Murphy

When I started in human resource management many years ago — you know, before there were computers — the focus was on helping employees find resources enabling them to engage more in work and provide higher quality and productivity.

Some 30 years later, the HR role barely resembles that version.  We’re more focused on keeping organizations out of court, completing and tracking necessary paperwork and  dealing with new regulations that don’t play well with existing regulations. Reasonable accommodation and leave laws, among them.

What should an organization expect from HR? How does HR benefit an organization?  The answer depends. How many times have you heard that from your HR professional or employment law attorney? It depends on the industry, size of the organization, accessible resources and time.

Still, crucial aspects of HR must be performed regardless of who performs them. Here are some of the vital areas of which businesses must remain aware:

Compliance and legal responsibilities:  Reduce the chances of unfair treatment, bullying and not following work rules and laws. This involves managing employee discipline and dismissals properly; knowing the rights of employees and employers; preventing discrimination in paperwork, processes and conversations; making sure the workplace is accessible; meeting equal pay and transparency rules; and reviewing and updating work practices and policies. This also involves understanding both state and federal law and what to do if they contradict.

Employee relations: Maintain good relationships and communication systems among employees, managers and the organization. This involves dealing with employee worries, resolving conflicts, addressing complaints, creating a positive workplace by solving personnel issues and improving communication between management and employees.

Strategic partnerships:  Play a role in the big-picture planning of the organization by making sure what HR accomplishes aligns with the main goals. Help manage changes smoothly and predict what staff the organization will need in the future in planning for new services or dealing with challenges in the environment or economy.

Data analysis: Use data analysis to make smart choices, improve how things are done and contribute to the overall success of the organization. This includes looking at data on hiring and keeping good people; monitoring how engaged, happy and productive employees are; addressing concerns about keeping or losing employees and lack of talent; tracking trends in pay and benefits; and planning for professional development.

Recruitment: Put in place structures and processes to hire and retain good employees. This includes making the company look appealing to potential employees, building a pool of talented people, using technology and resources well and following the law in interviews and other hiring practices. This also includes using scorecards to pick candidates, conducting job tests when needed and maintaining good records of hiring decisions.

Retention: Ensure the company provides competitive pay, benefits and perks to keep top employees. This involves balancing work and personal life; offering such attractive features as flexible work hours and job sharing; and providing opportunities for learning, recognition and career growth. This also involves connecting with company culture and work conditions through regular communication. If needed, talk with employees to identify and fix issues.

Performance management: Supervise systems for evaluating how well employees perform, including setting expectations, providing feedback, making sure fair and clear criteria are used, following compliance requirements and creating plans to improve performance. Do this in a consistent and legal way that connects with the company’s approach to pay.

Paperwork management — and more regulations:  This involves keeping legally defensible documents in such areas as hiring, benefits, pay, performance evaluations, when employees leave and how and why the employment environment changes. It also includes employee handbooks, job descriptions, surveys and more. Meanwhile, the privacy of employees must be protected.

HR isn’t just a cost center. It can be a strategic partner that plays a crucial role in attracting, retaining and developing a talented workforce; fostering a positive work environment; ensuring compliance; and driving organizational success. Without a strong HR function, even the best business ideas struggle to find their wings.

Although this information might not be particularly exciting or captivating, neglecting it could grab attention should your company face allegations of workplace violations or discrimination. I bet that grabbed your attention.