In the dictionary the word productivity is defined as the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services. Every organization, every department in that organization needs to be about productivity, including the Human Resources department.
HR as a driver
In a recent issue of Business Management Daily there was an article entitled Boost HR productivity to become a true strategic player: 5 steps. I am going to discuss their five steps.
Step 1 Look Inward
This step is all about credibility. If you don’t have your own house in order no one will care about what you say. In the lingo of the SHRM competencies established by Dave Ulrich et al this is the competency known as “operational executer.” BMD says many people want to skip this step. You can’t. Unfortunately many HR departments get stuck in this area as a rut because they can’t figure out how to be more productive themselves.
Step 2 Focus on productivity areas with the biggest impact on profit and revenue
The BMD article sees these as labor costs per unit, the speed and quality of customer service and the performance of new hires. These are all good measures. There may be others that are appropriate to your organization. The problem many HR departments have is even knowing what these measures are in the first place. The HR department is typically not where these numbers are kept. They are typically kept in finance or operations. Without close relationships with the heads of these groups those numbers are not shared with HR. Without being aware of what the current productivity figures are no one in HR can do anything to improve them. Thus good working relationships with other departments are critical to HR’s success.
Step 3 Measure Measure Measure
Sound advice, as long as you know what you are measuring. Again this is why it is critical to have those interdepartmental relationships in order to get the data needed for measurements. Remember you are going to have to explain why HR wants to be involved in productivity measurement.
Step 4 Rethink hiring in terms of productivity
BMD says “Focus on hiring candidates with skills that match the organization’s business strategy.” Yes, that is what you are supposed to be doing. Do you really know what the business strategy is and how it applies to the skill sets needed in each position? This one of the most constructive roles an HR department can play beyond its compliance and administrative roles. Consulting with other departments to understand and translate what skills are necessary for each position in terms of organizational strategy. BMD gives the example: A company with a large customer-service call center decided to hire outgoing and enthusiastic employees. Productivity dropped because the company should have hired good listeners and problem solvers. It is important for HR to understand what skill sets are necessary before they start producing candidates. However, if the department management doesn’t understand this then there is opportunity. That leads to Step 5.
Step 5 Position HR as a “productivity consulting center
BMD says that HR should be a place that supervisors can come to get questions answered about motivating and challenging. I think HR can do this as an “outreach” rather than passively waiting for supervision to come to them. If HR is watching the “numbers” they may be able to identify areas ripe for improvement. But this is not going to work if there is no respect for HR.
It is all about respect
Being able to consult with the supervisory and management team is all based on respect. Respect is all based on credibility and credibility is all based on relationship and demonstrated ability to get the job done. Start at the end of this list and work backwards to consulting.