The HR process in modern workplace – The importance of an effective HR department
The Essential HR Handbook
Authors: Krista Inkinen & Oona Varjanto
This essay examines the function and importance of human recourse management in the modern workplaces. Throughout the years, investment to human re-course department has increased, the necessity of having working hiring and training processes has been understood as well as the importance of investing to employee wellbeing. Businesses are all about the people and investing into them pays out.
The main source was a book by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell called the Essential HR Handbook, A quick and handy resource for any manager or HR professional. (Armstrong & Mitchell, 2013)
Many other sources have been also used, in order to get broad point of view to the topic.
This essay focuses to the life cycle of an employee and what to take into account during that journey. The aim of this essay is to explain the HR process to the reader in a way that it is easy to understand and find practical examples for im-proving employee well-being. The following topics are introduced: The im-portance of human resources, Recruiting process, Onboarding to the workplace, Supporting the employee, Ending of the working relationship and the authors own experiences about the topics.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN RECOURSES
According to the definition of Entrepreneur Europe´s Encyclopedia, Human Re-courses is “The department responsible for personnel sourcing and hiring, appli-cant tracking, skills development and tracking, benefits administration and com-pliance with associated government regulations”. (Entrepreneur Europe, ei pvm)
According to the book, human recourse is all about the people. It is a complex field which includes acquiring, training, appraising and compensating employ-ees whilst considering their health and safety. In the last decades the need for functional human recourse department has increased and workplaces have re-alised the importance of healthy, satisfied employees.
It is important for the company to know why it exists in order to define the spe-cific steps towards the wanted goals. Executing the strategic plan requires re-source allocation, organizational resources, intellectual capital, financial capital and most importantly human capital. Because human capital is the most im-portant one in companies and people affect to every activity within the organiza-tion, it is crucial that human resource is linked to the strategic plan. Also, strate-gic planning is a continuous process and requires the ability to adapt to changes.
With the objective to recruit the right employees to the company, HR depart-ment needs to be updated of the targets and changes within the organization. Planning and allocating right people to the right tasks is crucial when it comes to achieving the highest possible efficiency.
Company´s success consists of multiple matters, but human resource is the main element of it. Since workforce is composed of individuals, paying attention to their personal skills, health, safety and personality in order to get them satis-fied about their job is crucial, as individuals affect the company´s economy. The goal is to have employees who impacts the economy positively, thus creating as enjoyable working conditions as possible becomes mandatory for businesses. (Camelia & Oana, 2018)
According to the Armstrong and Mitchell the most common and biggest mistake that companies make is to recruit personnel only when necessary which means that the process will be hurried leaving no time to look for a person who is the right fit. They recommend keeping in mind the company culture when hiring new personnel so that you are more likely to find new employees who fit in from the beginning. Explaining what kind of company culture is to be expected can scare away some applicants but that will only work in the company’s favor as they need to go through less applications from unsuitable applicants. Armstrong and Mitchell claim that the most cost-effective way to find new recruits is through the existing personnel in the form of referral programs because employees are less like to refer an applicant who is not suitable. As a bonus it allows management to gauge the employee satisfactions because unhappy employees will not refer others to the workplace. Armstrong and Mitchell also advice readers to stay in contact with former employees as it tells them that they are welcome back. This is valuable because when a former employee returns, they bring with them new set of skills and a renewed commitment to the company. They also can provide valuable referrals to former employers.
Most job-hunting is done online nowadays which means that companies should maintain a good social media presence and an up-to-date website. It is im-portant to have careers section where interested applicants can leave their CVs even when no available positions are advertised. When reviewing resumes from applicants it is important to know what the key elements are for the vacancy, such as knowledge, abilities and behavior. This will help in reducing the stack of resumes and make it easier to invite the most suitable candidates for inter-views.
Armstrong and Mitchell recommend using behavioral interviewing technique where you ask questions in a systematic, analytical and objective way. This al-lows the interviewer to discover how the applicant has used their skills in the past and make predictions on how they would use them if they were hired. Good interview questions are integral to ascertain the candidate’s strengths, ar-eas for development and suitability for the vacancy. They will also explore how
the candidate is as a person and whether or no they would be a good fit for the company.
Armstrong and Mitchell also advice having standard format and agenda for in-terviews in order to keep them effective and quick to prepare for. Video inter-views are becoming ever more popular due to the ease of use for companies’ HR departments. This is because most often applicants are asked to film a video of themselves and upload it to company’s cloud where it is stored until the recruiter has time to watch it. Another convenient factor for companies is that most video interviews follow a format, so they are fast to analyze. The downside of them is that applicants often view them negatively and find the threshold of making them high. They also are liable to technological issues.
Th last part of the hiring process is checking applicant’s references which can be a time-consuming process but important to validate that the applicant is tell-ing the truth. Most Finnish companies can only give information on who worked in what position and what time as they are no longer allowed to rate the em-ployee’s performance to outside parties.
ONBOARDING TO THE WORKPLACE
Krasman discusses the onboarding in his article “Three Must-Have Onboarding Elements for New and Relocated Employees. He defines good onboarding pro-cess as strategic, comprehensive, consistent and measured. When onboarding is looked at as a strategic resource then it becomes clear that it needs to be supported by planning and be part of the whole company-wide business strategy as it is essential for the organizational growth. Krasman explains that compre-hensive and consistent onboarding is a process that is persistent and applied to every new hire through their early states of their employee journey in a company. Onboarding process needs to be measured so that there is evidence on how well it works for an employee and that changes can be made, as necessary. (Krasman, 2015)
According to Armstrong and Mitchell the onboarding process is done to help new employees to reach the expectation and goals set for them when they were hired. This means that they will learn to perform to the potential that was envi-sioned for them by the organization. If the onboarding is done successfully then the new employees understand the company culture, vision and policies, and can take part in them. How this is usually accomplished is by assigning a buddy to them who shows them how to do their required tasks and helps them assimi-late to the company culture. It is also important for the company to build a mutu-ally satisfying relationship with the new employee, show enthusiasm and be re-spectful of the employee’s prior experiences. The aim of onboarding is not only to teach the employee how to work in the new organization but for them to feel comfortable in the organization. Armstrong and Mitchell emphasize the im-portance of onboarding being a long process and they recommend that it should take around six months to complete. In the beginning the new employee will need more support and guidance to familiarize with new ways of doing things and later they need support in handling the pressures brought by adaptation.
SUPPORTING THE EMPLOYEE
Concerning the fact that employees have the right to know what is expected from them and receive feedback in order to improve, they need support from the man-ager during their employment. Having regular conversations about the work, em-ployee´s performance as well as his/hers thought about the work and workplace is important both to the manager and employee. From these conversations, man-ager gets necessary information about the feelings of the employees and atmos-phere of the workplace. These factors impact a lot to the performance of the em-ployees and thereby to the result of the company.
For the employees it is crucial to hear feedback since there is no other way to improve. Especially younger employees who has just started their career want to learn more and know what to do better. Appraisal meetings are great way to per-sonally get insights from the employees, it also signals that they are being lis-tened to and cared by.
In these meetings it is vital to talk about expectations set for the employee and how those have been executed. Also setting new expectations and reminding about the company goals. Practical examples and clear objectives both to short and long-term period, helps employees to know what they are expected to do. It is good to stay friendly but professional during these meetings, asking open ended questions and being honest. Giving positive feedback is great, but also telling criticisms is important and should be done in a straightforward way.
For the managers, the meetings also give information about employees and dis-closes if there is more coaching needed in some areas. It is also great time for acknowledgments of good performance. Most importantly, it builds management skills which is always wanted for managers.
Important part of supporting employee is offering help when needed. Readiness to help, also in basic questions and requests signals that asking for help is okay and the manager can be counted when needed.
Many times, employees do not even know all the services they get from the oc-cupational health and it is important to remind about those. Good way to get in-formation from the employees is also having surveys about once in a year, to get
the insight of how the employees are doing and if there is anything that could be improved.
Spending time outside of work is also a good way to increase the atmosphere in a workplace. Having staff days, small competitions or social evening, sets a great environment for staff to relax and get to know each other better. The workplace atmosphere might affect to the productiveness of the employees. Good commu-nication, leading by example and diminishing the amount of criticism are great way to start improving the atmosphere (CommunicationBriefings, 2010).
ENDING OF THE WORKING RELATIONSHIP
An employment relationship can end to a termination, both resignation or being fired, but it can also end to retirement or to other reasons. In this chapter resig-nation or being fired are mainly discussed as they are the most common. Arm-strong and Mitchell discuss the reasons for an employee to be laid off as it is not easily done. They explain that employees can be laid of due to poor performance, misconduct, restructuring or changes in company’s needs. The latter two can be seen as some positions becoming obsolete due to new technology, improved processes or a merger of two companies. Something to note when discussing terminations due to poor performance is that the employees must be given written warnings and a chance to better their performance before termination should be considered. Armstrong and Mitchell urge managers to deliver news of termination to the employee in a sensitive and respectful manner. From the point of view of legal considerations, it is necessary to give forewarning that there might be a need to terminate the contract and justify it with facts.
HR Specialist advices how to conduct a termination situation right in their article “How to avoid 5 classic firing mistakes”. The author explains that laying off some-one is usually an emotional situation and that the HR representative should al-ways keep calm, not promise things they cannot deliver, be careful with their wording of things and never discuss the details of the termination with other em-ployees. They also emphasize the need to document all the steps leading to the termination process and the termination process itself because not only will the company need those records if they are sued but there are documents they need to provide to the employee in question. In Finland it is not common for employees to sue their former employers because they feel that their contract was terminated on unfair or wrongful terms, but it can happen. As firing situations are highly emo-tional it is better for the managers that the company has standards on how to do it and have at least some of it covered in the company handbook. (Specialist, 2020)
Beard, Burkus and McGinn discuss resignations in their podcast episode turned into an article called “Resignations”. When people resign from a position in a company
feeling more freely. Burkus explains that exit interviews can make a difference in companies if they are taken seriously. Employees who are resigning from a com-pany most likely know what issues with processes are and might have an idea on how to fix them. They are also likely to give important feedback if given space to do so. The problem with exit interviews is that most companies do them as that is part of the resignation process and never reflection on the feedback they re-ceived. (Beard, Burkus, & McGinn, 2018)
Krista thinks that the recruitment processes have become more streamlined for companies in the last ten years, but she also feels like they are more cumber-some for applicants. Nowadays good CVs are harder to craft as they need to be visually pleasing, informative and short enough. Also video interviews are sur-prisingly intimidating to film and require the applicant to plan prepare a scene plan. That being said it is possible to show your own flair and perform well in those kinds of interviews.
Krista has positive exit interview experiences from a couple of hotels in England where they really wanted to know what issues she had noticed while working there. It felt like they were conducting those exit interviews in order to improve processes and not just because they were part of the standard. She has not had ones in Finland that would have been as in depth or managers seemed to be enthusiastic in doing.
Krista has been the HR Manager for Avanteam this Spring term and has found it interesting. Avanteam does not have a traditional HR role because it is a co-operative operated by students so they all train and support each other. What has been the core duties of HR in this team is to listen to the members, ask if people are doing good, offer help and try to remove roadblocks when possible.
Oona has had many different experiences from hiring process, employment well-being and support from HR department or employer. Throughout the years and different workplaces, the realization of the importance of good atmosphere and fair managing has emphasized. Onboarding is the most important phase of an employee´s journey within a company. Welcoming to the workplace and introduc-ing to the job sets the mindset for the company and if it is even a bit negative, it takes a lot effort to turn that into positive later. Welcoming should be polite and enthusiastic, introduction clear and motivating. Talking negatively about the job or staff ruins the excitement about the new job.
Without clear managing and goals set from manager, it is impossible to fulfil them. If the onboarding process has been a bit incomplete, some important aspect of
the job has not been learned and then later hearing frustrated feedback of things not going as they should, the motivation towards work is being destroyed a bit.
In the experience of Oona, the biggest matter affecting to the effectiveness and productiveness is the atmosphere of the workplace. If there is a lot of behind back talking, passive aggressiveness or hierarchy, it is very hard to enjoy the work and give 100% for the job. Having a manager to whom it is easy to talk to reduces stress and the threshold to being honest whilst increasing trust within the working community. Creating safe working conditions supports employee well-being, grows the motivation towards work and therefore creates better results for the company.
Armstrong, S.;& Mitchell, B. (2013). The essential HR Handbook. Newburyport, Massachusetts: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC.
Beard, A.;Burkus, D.;& McGinn, D. (20. 9 2018). Resignations. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles, ss. 19-36.
Camelia, B., & Oana, N. (2018). Considerations on the Importance of Human Resources in the Development of Modern Companies. Ovidius University Annals, Series Economic Sciences, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p377-382. 6p.
CommunicationBriefings. (June 2010). Improve workplace atmosphere. Communication Briefings, ss. Vol. 29 Issue 8, p3-3. 1/4p.
Entrepreneur Europe. (ei pvm). Entrepreneur Europe. Noudettu osoitteesta Encyclopedia: https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/human-resources
Krasman, M. (Summer 2015). Three Must-Have Onboarding Elements for New and Relocating Employees. Employment Relations Today, ss. 9-14.
Specialist, H. (2020). How to avoid the 5 classic firing mistakes. HR Specialist, ss. 6-6.