The people behind the people Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
Once upon a time, there was a company with 600 employees but no human resources (HR) staff.

Management had never considered how HR expertise could add value.

The top executive, who was a people person, assumed the other top managers were people-oriented, as well. And, for the most part, they were. But a staff that is strongly people-oriented must always also possess a “let’s-get-the-job-done” attitude. In that event, getting the best people to do the best job possible is the preferred situation.

“That’s where human resources comes in,” says Bob Preziosi, a professor of management in the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. “Human resource professionals use their knowledge and skill to help a business find success.

“The role of HR has become pivotal in today’s organizations, regardless of size. An intense desire to be more productive and efficient has led corporate managers to the HR department’s doorstep.”

Typically, HR staffers are involved in arranging corporate benefits packages, helping the company follow employee-related laws, organizing employee health and fitness programs, coordinating risk management procedures and much, much more, including miscellaneous employee and labor relations.

Smart Business talked to Preziosi about how to find the other, hidden, values of a human resources department.

How do HR professionals help a business achieve success?

There are five major tasks HR performs that really make the department worthwhile.

  • HR acts as a strategic business partner, learning the goals, objectives and business results that each line of business seeks.

    HR works to make each business unit the focus of the department’s actions rather than looking for ways to address

    its own processes and procedures. Within the boundaries of the law and corporate policy, HR provides the services that support department strategy. There is always a direct link between an HR operational approach and one or more aspects of the business strategy.

  • HR also takes the lead in organization change initiatives. These can include issues driven by technology, new product/service introduction, restructuring, regulations or market pressures, just to name a few.

    HR contributes in a big way because of how it handles the people aspect of change, which is always the most difficult part. HR can provide direct, specific, take-charge approaches, including training in change management, or it can be more consultative.

  • HR is a pulse-taker and knows how employee opinions about the organization are stacking up. HR makes specific recommendations to management if improvement is needed.

    Even when HR outsources the data collection aspect of pulse-taking, its man-

    agement of the many aspects of employees’ business life is a huge contribution to business success because both productivity and quality are affected by these efforts.

  • HR also impacts business results by being a technical expert. The tasks HR departments oversee have grown over the years in both number and complexity.

    Projects such as recruiting and hiring, compensation and benefits, training and the legal aspects of a business require great expertise. The dos and the don’ts that reduce pitfalls and risks are best handled by professionals, especially those with degrees in HR or Society for Human Resource Management accreditation.

  • Finally, HR adds value to the efforts of managers and executives through performance management. This goes well beyond the normal performance-appraisal process that requires policies, forms and signatures.

    HR is positioned to be a performance management consultant throughout the organization. This includes training, advocating best practices and troubleshooting performance issues and problems. HR helps individuals and work groups identify gaps in performance requirements and offers solutions to overcome those gaps.

    As organizations strive to be more competitive, improving performance puts HR in the spotlight.

HR is the catalyst for better business results through the above five elements. There are other ways that HR impacts business results, but those discussed here have the most impact and are the most needed in today’s organizations.

BOB PREZIOSI is a professor of management in the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. He has been delivering leadership training and education for more than 30 years. You can reach him at preziosi@huizenga.nova.edu or through the school’s Web site, www.huizenga.nova.edu.