People-power gurus get their rewards

Human resource managers are winning recognition at last, writes Philip Schofield

Truth has at last dawned on employers. The weary cliche: "Our people are our most important asset" is actually correct. Managements are having to accept the conclusive evidence that the most important factor affecting profits is the way in which employees are managed. The result? The corporate spotlight is focusing on the Human Resource Management (HRM) function.

The problem is that while growing numbers of employers want to adopt "best practice" in the management of their people, many are unsure exactly what that is. Fortunately, then, an initiative by Martin Leach, an independent publisher and one of the subjects of Charles Handy's new book The New Alchemists, has opened one way to measure best practice.

Having successfully launched the award-winning Human Resources magazine, Leach has devised and organised the HR Awards. He explains: "Four years ago, there were no quality awards for human resources at all. The Institute of Personnel and Development has `Personnel Manager of the Year', something done for an individual in an organisation, but there was nothing that measured the HR function. I felt that there was a gap in the market for something that pushed quality and excellence forward ... there was no way for human resource people to measure how well they were doing or get some kind of recognition."

Drawing on the experience of last year's HR Awards, Shaun Tyson, professor of human resource management, and Noeleen Doherty, senior research fellow at the Human Resource Research Centre, have described a framework for HR best practice in the Human Resource Excellence Report. The report defines the parameters of best practice at a strategic, operational and process level within an organisation.

The authors' central tenet is that there should be a "fit" between the HR strategy and the business strategy. "HRM should help to deliver organisational performance objectives through HR programmes and policies ... HR activities should be integrated with line management, and there should be integration within the policies to give coherence." But they do not advocate a single "ideal" approach.

The model they developed for the awards follows criteria found in both the Investors in People (IiP) programme and in the European Foundation for Quality Management's model for business excellence. At a strategic level, it proposes that HR strategy fit into the business or organisation strategy and be designed to deliver against business objectives. The HR function should be seen and understood as integral to the team responsible for the major change processes.

At an operational level, the model is competency-based. The authors define competencies as "strategically important attributes which give a competitive advantage", which they say should be identified by research into successful performance and an analysis of future manpower needs in the organisation.

Recruiters should seek out these competencies in the job market and bring them into the organisation. Employment contracts should be attractive and competitive. Employee development needs should be met as part of the needs of the business. Appraisal and performance systems should be linked to organisational objectives and to personal development. And reward management systems should deliver against corporate objectives in terms of motivation, recognition and retention.

Finally, at a process level, relationships should be managed with perceived fairness, involving employees collectively and individually in those decisions that affect their work. Recognition should be given to the different stakeholder relationships, which may include customers and suppliers, and the management approach should be inculcated through an appropriate organisation culture. Employee creativity and innovation should be developed. There should be an organisation-wide approach to learning and change-management. There should be systems to facilitate two-way communication. The physical and mental well-being of employees should be central to organisational life, and recognition should be given to the significance of the home/work life balance.

"This may seem a counsel of perfection," admit the authors. "However, there is no `right' way, and what is appropriate depends on the strategic objectives at a corporate level ... our concern is with what is appropriate for the organisation."

The 51 organisations entering the 1998 HR Awards clearly saw themselves as models. Commenting on their HR strategies, which were often tacitly expressed rather than formally stated, the authors observe: "As a generalisation, the greater the clarity of the human resource vision, the better. Straightforward, well-grounded visions seem more likely to be achieved."

n `Human Resource Excellence Report', by Shaun Tyson and Noeleen Doherty, is published by Financial Times Management

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore