Keep the HR faith

by 03 Oct 2007

I feel compelled to respond to Nicholas Vaghenas (“Sick and tired of HR rhetoric”, issue 135, 21 August, p3) as it is precisely this thinking which creates the perception of HR failing its people. This magazine has continually reiterated the need for the HR professional to sit at the executive table. Your position has been that unless the CEO shares the vision and passion for excellent people management, then HR will simply never make headway.

Nicholas is reflecting the often stated complaint that HR simply rolls out fads but is unable to engage middle and lower management ensuring their implementation into ‘the culture of the way things are done’. Nicholas will be pleased to know that it is not all doom and gloom, but there are a couple of key ingredients to increase your chance of success. The first one is set in stone. If the HR executive does not sit at the CEO’s table, find another job.

The capacity to influence the vision and commitment of the CEO is fundamental in ensuring that leadership and a focus on people management strategies remains the key focus for everybody in the leadership team.

The second ingredient is that it takes time. Select an appropriate HR strategy for your organisation, (that’s where your degree comes in handy), and then set about creating the framework that has a five- to ten-year delivery plan. Market it to your CEO in the same way you look at your emails, every day and every night, taking care of the people priority issues.

The last key ingredient is money. Excellent HR management practices are not cheap, and you cannot sustain them on a shoestring budget either. The cost arguments are easily dealt with using the costs of high turnover, keep the metrics and do not be afraid to use them.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to put these three ingredients together, then you will find your staff are not, “traipsing” through Seek and MyCareer everyday but rather, wondering what exciting and innovative HR initiative is being rolled out or about to be rolled out consistent with your long-term strategy. Where I work, this can be diverse as “dreams and their meaning”, a session on feng shui, or an opportunity for staff to bring their kids to work to see what mum and dad do for a living.

An important measure is obviously in results and for my organisation, that is: a lower than industry turnover rate; an excellent absenteeism record self-managed by the team dynamics in place; a learning and development framework that offers something for everyone and allows leadership to ignite from any level in the organisation; and a focus on fun (we even go canoeing down the river during work time, or staff bike rides on Friday afternoons). Hard to believe? Maybe, but it’s true. Have we been successful? I would like to think so. Logan City Council picked up the Queensland 2007 Australian Human Resource Excellence in People Management Award.

This would suggest what we are doing for our 1,000 staff through the human resource strategy framework is the way to go, and I would like to think that in five years’ time, my story will be even better than the one I have to share today. Keep the faith Nicholas!

– Mike Ellis, human resource services manager, Logan City Council