[Blog 25] Thinking Out Loud: Leaders Don’t Always Have The Answers

For decades, the traditional role of human resource has been unflatteringly perceived as merely administrative, encompassing personnel functions such as “hire and fire”, payroll administration, systemising of company policies and the like.

Fast forward to today, it is now turning into a strategic function brimming with complexities that involves strengthening the employer-employee relationship, workforce planning and being a strategic business partner that share the overall responsibility to deliver financial and operational results. Senior executives and managers of today are increasingly reliant on HR to keep up with pressing demands when confronted with varying challenges of the rapidly-evolving market in which their companies thrive. These leaders might possess a wealth of data and statistics on employee performance or their relevant fields but when it comes to translating this knowledge into consultative roles that focus on human capital and the validation of decisions, they tend to fall short, much to the surprise of many. It’s easy to pinpoint the cause to a lack of sensitivity or awareness, but the root of this could simply be a lack of sufficient HRM know-how at top management levels to make smarter and more strategic decisions.

With the restructuring and more rapid cycles of business in recent years, I myself have encountered my own set of challenges in HRM. For one, how do I administer my moral, ethical and legal responsibilities to aid the company in making a leap when I am finding it hard myself to coach employees to cope with the vast transition? Rather than being regularly trained to update my knowledge and advance my understanding of the business, I, and a lot of professionals and entrepreneurs in my shoes, had to rely a lot on personal instincts when navigating the course and making decisions. I believe this predicament stems from a lack of guidance in managing issues from a very early stage in my career, when there was the prevalent absence of subject-matter experts who are adequately competent to advise me on what works and what doesn’t for the business. Contrary to popular belief, HR is far from just ‘common sense’. Coming from someone with more than thirty years of practice, I believe that the culmination of expertise requires a blend of practical experience, grasp in both theory and technical aspects as well as exposure to diverse situations from working with numerous clients. To achieve this ideal, more supervision and coaching should be given to HR professionals to cultivate them towards a higher level of analytic maturity—coupled with the appropriate mindsets and behaviours—so they can anticipate cracks and flaws even before they appear. This way, they will be able to lead your business more effectively and add value to your bottom line.

Whether it’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer, HR will not be able to prosper in an organisation without people who possess the requisite expertise that encompasses significant insight in people issues. There is lot more room for managers and professionals to grow, apart from just obtaining academic certifications and graduate degrees. Before this issue snowballs into something more detrimental, more proactive HR support initiatives should be directed towards the young to provide them with counsel in order to lead cultural transformation and effect real change for the organisation in the long-run.

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