HR PERSPECTIVE:Rethinking HR management — how to make the function more effective

HR PERSPECTIVE:Rethinking HR management — how to make the function more effective

HR has been responsible for processing payroll, managing benefits administration, maintaining personnel files, and other records, managing the hiring process, among others.

I have argued in this column before, that traditionally, the Human Resources (HR) Department has been viewed as an administrative overhead. HR has been responsible for processing payroll, managing benefits administration, maintaining personnel files, and other records, managing the hiring process, among others. I believe those times are changing and there are immense benefits in making HR more strategic.
If HR is going to increase its “value-add” and influence at the Executive table, with other company top strategists and decision makers, it must decide on what is core and non-core. Administrative responsibilities such as getting payslips out on time are not core. There are other critical strategic issues that must be addressed.
Before HR professionals can work to implement strategy, they must first ascertain what obstacles presently exist to prevent the desired changes from occurring in their organisation. Strategy implementation is, in many ways, a systematised process of removing the company’s many internal roadblocks to change. Every strategy will encounter some measure of resistance, even when it has been unanimously agreed that change is imperative; and the more dramatic the change in strategy, of course, the more struggle there will be.
In 2015, we undertook a survey on the barriers to HR effectiveness. HR barriers to effectiveness are the challenges that HR professionals are facing in managing and realising an increased return on their people. We assessed if HR functions and HR leaders are equipped to meet these challenges? We explored the current state of HR in most organisations to reveal the value organisations place on HR based on where they position the function within their organisation and the value-add currently being delivered by their HR function. We researched the state of HR, its perceptions, and profiled an HR function that does create business impact. Finally, we identified the most common barriers to and challenges in Human Resources to better understand and combat them.
When we asked the respondents what they thought were the barriers to HR effectiveness in their organisations, these are the responses we noted:
1. The HR function is often not directly represented nor considered part of executive management. Participants claimed this impedes their ability to influence decision making in their companies.
2. Financial constraints that affect their ability to design creative reward systems.
3. Lack of management buy-in into HR programmes.
4. Political interference by policy makers.
5. Insufficient Information Technology infrastructure to support HR programmes.
6. Inadequate budgetary allocation to HRprogrammes.
7. Line managers not playing their HR role and lack of appreciation of the importance of the HR function by top management.
The role of HR as we know it is changing. When the economy eventually resurges and begins to function competitively, there are a number of management practices and business fundamentals that will have to change with it. I believe that the positive result of these changes is that HR professionals have the opportunity to play a more strategic role in the business. The challenge for HR managers is to keep up to date with the latest HR innovations, technological, legal, and otherwise.
There is a need to know the current HR challenges, and how to most-effectively manage them in your workplace. One area that companies in Zimbabwe need to begin to consider is applying predictive analytics to HR. Companies have a lot of HR related data at their disposal, but they are not using it.
I have gone to organisation’s where questionable HR decisions are being made because people choose to use a guess work approach to decision making —with absolutely no methodical or scientific process involved.
Many companies are struggling, for example, at workforce planning. They neither know how many employees (establishment provision) they need for a particular period and at what cost. If they do, many of these companies guess these figures and usually discover later, for example, that they are over or understaffed. Many of the retrenchment exercises that we are seeing could have been avoided if companies had done proper workforce planning using statistical models. The number of employees a company needs in the future should be determined now. Failure to do this accurately results in overstaffing or understaffing. There are a lot of unnecessary retrenchment exercises that are happening that could have been averted had management done its manpower planning properly. There are also other companies that are understaffed, but their management does not realise it. No matter how much pressure you put on employees you will not achieve those performance targets because of these staffing issues.
Analysing your company’s historical data can help you accurately forecast your future business and staffing requirements. Workforce planning using your company’s historical data goes beyond planning employee head count needed now and in the future. The skills you require for each department or business unit can also be identified by analysing your workers’ demographic, academic and experience profiles. You can also use workforce planning to ascertain the number of contract versus permanent employees that you will need now and in the future.
There are many other HR solutions based on your company’s data that you can start implementing. Leading international companies such as Google have spent years methodically building Human Resources Management Systems which have subsequently paved way to their incredible success.
Companies of different sizes operating in different industries can benefit from extensive data analysis. If you have not given any thought to building a comprehensive database for your company, it is high time you do. Subjective (guess work) decision making is dangerous. Many companies are struggling because of it. Leading companies in the world have embraced a data driven approach to HR management because of its immense benefits. It is high time Zimbabwean companies adopt evidence based management.
You can contact me on the details below for more information on effective human resources management and workforce planning.

Memory Nguwi is the Managing Consultant of Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or cell number 077 2356 361 or email: or visit our website at

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