THE human resources division is one of the most important departments in any organisation. However, sometimes due to poor design and staffing model the department is treated as a peripheral department by other executives.
The person heading the human resources department regardless of their title should report directly to the head of the organisation. Whether you decide to call it an officer, director or executive, this role should report directly to the head of the organisation. Such a reporting structure would ensure that the department gets the attention it deserves.
The title matters — several titles are used at the executive level for the head of human resources. Some prefer the HR director, HR executive, head — HR and others use the HR business partner title. We have also seen the title chief HR officer being used. If you want to go the Google way, HR is referred to as people operations. The title used by Google is a befitting title for the human resources function. Although the issue of the title sounds like it is not important, it helps to give HR the clout it needs to drive change and leadership to the whole business on people issues.
HR must learn to bring skills into the department that they are unlikely to get from HR people. These skills include analytics and IT skills. My recommendation is that HR must hire people with statistics, Applied Maths or operations research to do analytics for them. If they envisage having machine learning HR interventions they would need people with computer science and statistics as well.
The HR department should have a person dealing with industrial relations, remuneration and benefits, analytics, talent acquisition, and organisational development. These sections are enough to drive value creation within the organsiation. These people can operate at officer level. How if the organisation is large employing more than 2000 people, some of these roles can operate at manager level.
As to the number of people that are required in manning the whole HR department, it is prudent to use the standard ratio used to calculate the number of HR people required as a proportion of headcount. The ratio is 1:100. However, it is prudent to have fewer people if the organisation has more advanced and automated HR systems.
There has been debate on what kind of person should head the HR function. In my discussion with HR professionals, they are struggling to accept people who have not been trained in HR to head the function. In some international organisations, we have seen the trend where people who have studied other disciplines that have nothing to do with HR heading the department. Most of these people have excelled in that role. The major benefit cited for bringing such people especially from operations and engineering is that they have high analytics skills and high levels of numerical ability compared to the ordinary HR professional. My view is that it does not matter what people have studied especially in an area like HR, which currently is not regulated. What matters is the capacity to give value to the organsiation.
HR professionals in general would need to develop skills in analytics, critical thinking and digitalisation. In the majority of cases, you would find that the human resource division is the last one to go digital due to lack of skills and inability by HR professionals to put together a business case for such a project
Once a structure following the above model has been put in place, there is a need to hire the most competent people for the department. HR departments must do away with the practice of taking rejects from other departments. It is a common practice for people who fail in other departments to be dumped in HR.
The reason is that HR is taken as a function that is not difficult where high-level thinking is not required. A model that uses rejects from other departments does not add value to the business in the long run. HR need highly competent people, who besides understanding their technical area of HR, also need to have very good business skills.
Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and HR consulting firm.
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