The Role of Strategic HR Leader

Strengthening the employer-employee relationship is the strategic role of a human resources manager. However, there’s more to this job than many people realize. Human resources managers formulate workforce strategy and determine the functional processes necessary to meet organizational goals. Their job requires expertise as an HR generalist, which means they must be familiar with every human resources discipline.

Evolving Roles in Human Resources

During the 1980s, personnel departments were responsible for handing out applications, providing employees with insurance enrollment forms and processing payroll. The role of the personnel department was mainly administrative. Over the next several decades, personnel administration became more involved with overall business goals. Companies began to recruit human resources leaders who were capable of strategic management.

Personnel administration evolved into human resources management. Human resources managers are responsible for developing strategic solutions to employment-related matters that affect the organization’s ability to meet its productivity and performance goals.

Evolving Terminology and Language

Some businesses no longer use the term “human resources,” preferring “human capital” instead. This is due to a sea-change in how employers understand their relationship to their employees. Instead of defining employment as a role with functions, which is the traditional human resources approach, human capital recognizes the value that employees bring to an organization. This approach is more people-centered, focusing on the strengths and talents of employees and allowing these strengths and talents to influence and define the business.

Workplace Safety and Risk Management

Creating a work environment free from unnecessary hazards is a strategic role of every human resources manager. Strategic development for workplace safety entails risk management and mitigating potential losses from on-the-job injuries and fatalities. Workers’ compensation insurance is an area in which a strategic plan helps lower company expense for insurance coverage. Reducing accidents through training employees on the proper use of complex machinery and equipment is one of the functional tasks associated with creating a safe work environment.

Compensation and Benefits

An employer’s compensation and benefits structure partly determines the company’s business reputation and image. In addition, the decisions that human resources managers make regarding pay scales and employee benefits can impact employee satisfaction, as well as the organization’s ability to recruit talented workers. Job evaluation, labor market conditions, workforce shortages and budget constraints are factors that HR managers consider in a strategic plan for pay and benefits. A strategy includes weighing an employer’s choices between satisfying its workforce and pleasing the company’s stakeholders.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, mandates that human resources managers for some large companies, specifically those with fifty or more employees, may have to decide between offering group health coverage or paying a shared responsibility fee to the IRS.

Employee Training and Development

Human resources managers’ strategic role with respect to employee training and development prepares the workforce for future positions within the company. Succession planning, promotion-from-within policies and performance evaluation factor into the human resources manager’s role. Training and development motivate employees, and in some cases, improve employee retention.

Recruitment and Selection

Employee recruitment and selection is as much a part of employee relations as it is a separate discipline unto itself. Therefore, a human resources manager’s strategic role is to combine elements of employee relations into the employer’s recruitment and selection strategy. Integrating employee recognition programs into promotion-from-within policies is an effective form of employee motivation that combines employee relations and recruitment and selection areas of human resources.

Employer-Employee Relations

Some human resources managers believe that strengthening the employer-employee relationship rests solely in the employee relations areas of the HR department. This isn’t true. Nevertheless, employee relations is such a large part of every discipline – including salaries, benefits, safety, training and employee development – that sustaining an employee relations program is an important element of human resources strategy.

Implementing a workplace investigation process and enforcing fair employment practices are two components of an employee relations program. The strategic role of a human resources manager is to determine how to identify and resolve workplace issues, as well as how best to attract a diverse pool of applicants through effective recruitment and selection processes.

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