Despite the best intentions and working long hours, the situation remains the same for many companies – they are losing in the human resources component, and that affects entire businesses. Today's real problems faced by traditionally successful HR departments arise from mindsets reinforced by techniques and strategies that worked to bring past successes, and this article takes a look at how and where traditional HR departments need to break their barriers and adapt to new workplace realities.
The employer-employee relationship has changed as has the key performance indicators
Traditional HR managers have seen things work and experienced success in a time that can be termed as light-years away from what is going on now. The employer-employee relationship has changed its nature irrevocably, and key performance indicators and values of the yesteryear do not work today. HR employees with traditional mindsets in many places fail to fully grasp the depth and focus of the change.
First of all, neither the employee, nor the employer currently looks at the employer-employee relationship as anything even remotely indicating permanence. Longevity in the relationship is desired and sought, where the relationship is productive. But high productivity and retention cannot be attained without the HR department properly recognizing the new performance indicators and values of post-recession workplaces, and tying them in with the development and assessment of employee strategies.
The eight values of organizational culture in the new employer-employee relationships – the real paradigm shifts
The key eight values and performance indicators of the modern workplace are as follows:
- Flexible deployment – marking a functionally flexible work force, in contrast to a simple technically specialized workforce
- Customer-focus – learning to apply the mind and breaking organizational barriers to cater to customer requirements wherever possible. For example, an organization-dependent worker may easily reject customer requests, if they conflict with company policy; provide canned answers to customers, and in effect appear insensitive, when all he/she is doing is going by the book. In a customer-centric organization, a worker faced with customer requests that could be rejected, cannot afford to reject them out-of-hand, but should either take positive decisions or enquire of superiors before rejecting customer requests
- Performance-focus – linking rewards and benefits, not upon organizational dependency and length of tenure, but more upon performance
- Focusing on project based work and managing the shift from linearly functional organizational structures to cross-functioning organizational structures
- Linking human values and work to make organizational work meaningful and increase the degree of affective commitment of employees
- Shifting Learning & Development from a culture of providing specific training to a broader culture of learning and development where learning is continuous and not continual
- Understanding that employee loyalty is dead as a concept and has been substituted by measurable employee commitment
- Moving from a closed information environment to a more open information environment wherever possible – increasing employee empowerment and organizational transparency
Wherever traditional HR departments are failing to mark the paradigm shifts in the employer-employee relationships, they are failing in their objectives. Apparently, HR departments possess abundant strategies and approaches designed to make organizations flexible, performance-based, less functionally structured, flexible, win affective commitment of employees, properly develop skills, competencies, and open information channels.
However, even with all equipment ready at their hands, two major barriers often restrict traditional HR departments.
The first barrier occurs whenever the HR department deals with a single issue without taking into account the interdependency of workplace relations.
Even when it seems that everything is being taken into account, things are missed out, because many traditional HR departments handle issues with linear start and finish stages, without incorporating a multi-dimensional insight. When focusing on past successes, many times what is seen as strategies are nothing more than techniques and are far removed from policies. They are not broad enough to deal strategically with changing individual and organizational paradigms. To break the first barrier, traditional HRDs must understand that organizational change cannot be summed as detached episodes, but has to be viewed as continuous processes.
The second barrier plaguing traditional HR departments is that very successful HR managers are sometimes more focused on changing habits and behaviors, than focused on changing the way employees think.
Most training programs are meant to help participants acquire or develop new skills or competencies, blindly taking for granted that the participants fully understand why and how these new skills will benefit them and others in the workplace. Little time or resource is spent on changing the perspective of the employee. Many traditional HR departments take it for granted that people would automatically develop needed perspectives by acquiring and performing new skills. This is quite far from reality. To break this barrier and come into sync with new workplace realities, traditional HR departments have to watch that employees fully understand the implications of training programs, rather than focusing just on improving personal competencies.
Tim Baker, "The New Employee-Employer Relationship Model," Organization Development Journal 27, no. 1 (2009)