Your Workforce by Roger Herman

A New Model for Human Resources

A major change occurred in corporations when the "personnel" function redefined itself as "human resources." The more expansive terminology described a more all-encompassing professional department with responsibilities extending far beyond the administrative tasks associated with "personnel management." Now, over 150,000 people hold membership in the Society for Human Resource Management.

The problem faced by these professionals, and the employers they serve, is that much of the thinking and performance is limited to support functions and management. This model has worked in the past and is sufficient in many environments today. Given the increasing challenges in the field, this model will not work in the future.

Top corporate executives are discovering that the most valuable and most volatile resource is their human resource. Without adequate human resources, they will not be able to fulfill their missions. If they have a stable workforce of highly talented people, they can enjoy a strategic advantage over their competition.

Chief Executive Officers have traditionally sought highly qualified leaders, prepared through solid education and seasoned with significant experience, to assume responsibility for research, manufacturing, marketing, sales, distribution, and service. Now, as they realize the critical importance of human resources, senior leaders have high expectations of their Chief Human Resource Officers and their teams. When they look at the reality of their situations, they're disappointed. Too many human resources professionals lack the business sense, leadership skills, and experience to actively participate at the strategic level.

Forecast? Those human resource professionals who can perform at senior executive levels will be in high demand. They will demonstrate strong, multi-faceted competence and will have extraordinary expectations of their subordinates. As demands increase for strategic workforce planning, more individualized compensation and benefits management, focused compliance to corporate policies and government regulations, and management of contingent labor resources, the profession will move significantly beyond "management." This new breed of human resource executives who will be much more strategically oriented will outsource routine functions.

The divergence is already obvious: Many senior human resource executives do not choose to belong to the Society. They see themselves as "leaders," not merely managers.

Roger Herman is owner of The Herman Group, Greensboro, NC and is a specialist in employee retention.

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