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The HR Practitioner is expected to practice strategic human resource management. To what extent is this expectation realised in the businesses or organisations in the Caribbean?
What is Strategic Human Resource Management?
Strategic human resource management is a complex process that is constantly evolving and being studied and discussed by academics and commentators. Its definition and relationships with other aspects of business planning and strategy is not absolute and opinion varies between writers.
Strategic Human Resource Management can be regarded as a general approach to the strategic management of human resources in accordance with the intentions of the organization on the future direction it wants to take. It is concerned with longer-term people issues and macro-concerns about structure, quality, culture, values, commitment and matching resources to future needs. It is considered as all those activities affecting the behaviour of individuals in their efforts to formulate and implement the strategic needs of business. It is also viewed as the pattern of planned human resource deployments and activities intended to enable the forms to achieve its goals.
Strategic HRM can encompass a number of HR strategies. There may be strategies to deliver fair and equitable reward, to improve performance or to streamline structure. However, in themselves these strategies are not strategic HRM. Strategic HRM is the overall framework, which determines the shape and delivery of the individual strategies.
Strategic HRM is based on HRM principles incorporating the concept of strategy. So if HRM is a coherent approach to the management of people, strategic HRM now implies
that that is done on a planned way that integrates organisational goals with policies and action sequences.
Expectations of Strategic HRM
The expectations of the SHRM are many, for example the SHRM is expected to programmes that will demonstrate proactive approach to the management function. As a strategic SHRM the organisation would also expect that the he/ she recruit the right people for the job. Therefore the SHRM would need to ensure that the staffs he/she hires is well qualified, trained and have the experience that is required for the job. In this case the SHRM would be expected to have good judgement and free of all bias. The SHRM would also be expected to develop programmes for staff development and send staff on ongoing training. It would also be expected that the SHRM ensure the comfort of all staff in the work environment.
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Furthermore the SHRM would be expected to attract the right people to the organisation. For example, getting important people to partnership with the organisation or to expose the organisation to those people.
Another expectation of the Strategic Human Resource Manager is to find the right compensation package for employees to keep them committed to the organisation. For example, making sure that they have pension plans, health plans, and get overtime or any other perks that would keep them committed to the organisation.
As Strategic Human Resource Manager it is expected that he/ she keep in tune with environmental changes that will have both negative and positive impacts on the organisation. In addition to that he/ she should also be able to chart the mission and vision of the organisation making sure it stays relevant with what the organisation want to portray to its staff, client and the society at large.
Functions/ Roles/Responsibilities of Strategic Human Resource Manager
In today’s organizations, to guarantee their viability and ability to contribute, HR managers need to think of themselves as strategic partners. In this role, the HR person contributes to the development of and the accomplishment of the organization-wide business plan and objectives.
The HR business objectives are established to support the attainment of the overall strategic business plan and objectives. One of the key roles of the HRM is a proactive role, he/she needs to function as a strategic partner, intervene when necessary, the tactical HR manager is deeply knowledgeable about the design of work systems in which people succeed and contribute. This strategic partnership impacts HR services such as the design of work positions; hiring; reward, recognition and strategic pay; performance development and appraisal systems; career and succession planning; and employee development.
As strategic partner the HR manager should act as an employee sponsor or advocate. The HR manager plays an integral role in organizational success via his knowledge about and advocacy of people. This advocacy includes expertise in how to create a work environment in which people will choose to be motivated, contribute to the organisation and be happy.
This can be achieved by fostering effective methods of goal setting, communication and empowerment through responsibility, building employee ownership of the organization. The HR professional helps establish the organizational culture and climate in which people have the competency, concern and commitment to serve customers well.
In this role, the HR manager provides employee development opportunities, employee assistance programmes, gain sharing and profit-sharing strategies, organization development interventions, due process approaches to problem solving and regularly scheduled communication opportunities.
He/ She should also be seen as a change partner, the constant evaluation of the effectiveness of the organization results in the need for the HR professional to frequently champion change. Both knowledge about and the ability to execute successful change strategies make the HR professional exceptionally valued and knowing how to link change to the strategic needs of the organization will minimize employee dissatisfaction and resistance to change.
Being a strategic partner some of the responsibilities of a Strategic Human Resource Manager are: Interpret information related to the organisation operations from internal sources, including financial/ accounting, marketing, operations, information technology, and individual employees in order to participate in strategic planning of policy making. The HRM is responsible for interpreting all information relating to the organisation to all departments and all staff member in the organisation.
It is also a key responsibility for the HRM to participate as a partner in the organisation strategic planning process. Thus he/ she would meet with other top managers; giving input to all planning that is being done for the organisation. They would then have to agree on all planning process before implementing those plans.
In addition to that as Strategic Partner the HRM need to provide direction and guidance during changes in the organisational process, operations, and culture that balances the expectations and needs of the organisation, its employees, and other stakeholders (including customers).
It is also very important that the HRM cultivate leadership and ethical values in self and others through modelling and teaching. When this is done the organisation is likely to have workers with strong work ethics and leadership qualities.
The HRM would also be responsible for monitoring legislative environment for the proposed changes in law and take appropriate action to support, modify, or stop the proposed action (e.g., write a member of parliament, provide expert testimony at the public hearing, lobby legislators).
The HR professional contributes to the organization by constantly assessing the effectiveness of the HR function. He/she also sponsors change in other departments and in work practices. To promote the overall success of the organization, he/ she champions the identification of the organizational mission, vision, values, goals and action plans. Finally, he/ she helps determine the measures that will tell the organization how well it is succeeding in all of this.
To What extent is this expectation realised in the Caribbean?
As it relates to the Caribbean most Strategic Human Resource Managers only implement few of these roles and functions. From a Trinidad point of view it can be argued that many Strategic Human Resource Managers does not take their roles and function seriously as top manager in the organisation. In terms of being proactive many of them are not very efficient. In fact some of them are very laid back and do not act on issues or concern that the staff may have in a timely manner. In addition to that, sometimes the conditions in which employees are expected to work in and under are terrible. For example I was working as a customer service representative at one of Digicel’s Flagship stores and I had to stand up on a daily basis from 11:00 am † 9:00 pm. Though I expressed my concerns of my feet and back aching the HRM did nothing about it and told me she can do nothing about it because Digicel does not want to have any chairs for the employees to sit because they may not give the customers the best customer service. The HRM is supposed to be there for the employees of the organisation in which they are involved but in most cases the HRM does not seek the best interest of the employees. Thus the employees do not commit themselves fully to the job and do it to the best of their ability. Another area that is not realised in Trinidad is recruiting the right people for the job. In many organisations individual don’t get a fair chance of being hired; sometimes the recruitment process is very bias and is done by who knows whom within the organisation. Many times HRM recruit individual who are their friends and family members. Though this is not supposed to be done it happens a lot especially in large organisations such as WASA, BP and TSTT just to name a few. In some organisations promotion is not based on qualifications but rather the number of years you have been in the organisation.
Some of the key constraints that the SHRM may not realise his/ her expectations is that being a strategic partner is relatively new in today’s business society. In the past Human Resource Managers were not seen as strategic partners, they were just seen as managers. Therefore making major decisions and running the organisation was not part of what was expected of them.
Another major reason that they may not realise their expectations is because they are not recognised by other top management as strategic partners. They are not given the respect as others top managers are given. Therefore they may not realise some of their functions and roles that are required of them and job descriptions may not be clearly defined. In addition to that the HRM may not realise his expectation because he/she may not have the foresight to implement strategies.
Another reason is that he/she may not have the resources to do what is expected of them, such as human recourses as well as other resources. Furthermore they may have unrealistic goals and unrealistic timeframe for implementing and completing schedule projects.
Though Strategic Human Resource Management is a complex process that is still evolving, HRM must ensure that they carry out the roles and functions that are associated with it.
In today’s organizations, to guarantee their viability and ability to contribute, HR managers need to think of themselves as strategic partners. In this role, the HR person contributes to the development of and the accomplishment of the organization-wide business plan and objectives HR manager plays an integral role in organizational success. However in Trinidad some of the role, functions and expectations are not being met by the Strategic Human Resource Manager; due to them not realising their expectation.
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