Prelude: The Evolution of Human Resource Management
From the dawn of the Computer Age to the birth of the Internet, technology and business have evolved with unprecedented speed. Technological advances have produced competitive advantages. However, competitive advantage is no longer achieved or maintained solely by technological innovation.
With the rapid ability of product developers to create new products, the only remaining competitive advantage in business to capitalize upon is not technology, but people. Simply put, those firms attracting and retaining the best people and making the most of their human resources will thrive. Those who don’t, will not.
As an increasingly competitive world forces business to change, adapt and respond more quickly, companies are reconsidering the very essence of how they conduct business. These demands produce new expectations of how people contribute to organizations. People must possess greater knowledge, play new roles and operate to higher standards of performance.
The New Role of Human Resource Management
Because the emphasis today is on people and what they can bring to the business, it’s only natural that the Human Resource (HR) function would one day reexamine how it supports a firm’s business plan. That time is now. Once merely thought of as the organizational police, administrators or the company store, the Human Resource function is finally becoming a true strategic business partner in progressive companies.
Some say HR’s mission is to add value. Regardless of its characterization, the new HR role is to make a business more successful. Just like the order of movements in a symphony score, a business and its objectives must first be understood. The HR function, long associated with understanding and working with a company’s human element, is well suited to apply and integrate its organizational knowledge with the strategic business plan for maximum impact. The net result? The new HR function can now contribute to the success of the firm in ways which weren’t possible in the past. In fact, the new HR role is so different, it deserves a new name – Human Systems Management.
What Is Human Systems Management
Human Systems represents any organizational system in which the role, impact, and reaction of the human element are of critical importance. Human Systems Management encompasses much of what Human Resource Management has become, and more. In it, the HR function is re-creating, redefining, and essentially retuning for the Post-Modern and Information Ages. The system may be exclusively human (e.g., the process of team building) or sociotechnical (i.e., the interaction of people and technology). It may involve the redesign of work or the design of new pay systems to improve employee satisfaction and organizational performance.
The key element is, and always will be, the human element. The desired outcome is twofold: improved individual as well as organizational performance. At its core, however, is business strategy.
New Knowledge, New Opportunities
The Human Resource function, with its overall view of the business, has a great opportunity to capitalize upon and synthesize the new knowledge we have gained about organizational behavior.
For example, we know that employee involvement is vital to the success of many companies and business programs today. People who do the work know the work best. They should participate in decision making that affects their jobs, workplace and livelihood. People, therefore, will acquire skills by choice, if given the opportunity.
We also know that well-designed jobs and pay systems encourage skill acquisition and increase job satisfaction. In addition, we have learned that teams of people can be self-directing with equal or greater effectiveness than supervisor-led groups. When people are self-managing, the challenges and the rewards of achievement increase the meaning of the work they do.
The HR Department must also reexamine its traditional role. For instance, roles like Employment, Compensation and Training are performed in new ways to free the HR department to focus on other value-adding activities. This can be achieved through outsourcing, internal consulting, automation, the assumption of HR functions by line management, leaderless teams, team-based decision making, self-guided computer training, the Internet, reverse interviewing, as well as other strategies.
The result? The new proactive HR function can act more like a strategic partner.
A Strategic Partner for Human Systems Management
But how can organization’s move forward from Human Resource Management to Human System Management?
They should seek out a strategic partner who specializes in Human Systems Management. This allows the partner to orchestrate new strategies that will enhance a business’ chance for success and to serve as a centralized resource for data and ideas.
The strategic partner should not only provide a level of professional expertise usually found only in larger, more costly consulting firms, but also form more personal working relationships with an organization’s management team. This means that management can then always depend on the strategic partner’s ongoing availability and support.
Specifically, a strategic partner can help orchestrate the transition to Human Systems Management by:
- serving as an organization’s entire HR function where none exists;
- complementing the role of small HR functions in mid-size firms;
- and consulting with larger, well-established HR functions on new ideas for improving performance.
The Finale: Working in Concert
Today the challenge of Human Resource Management is to integrate the best traditional approaches with new and innovative techniques and strategies of Human Systems Management. When these elements work in harmony, and with the firm’s strategic plan, the organization becomes the beneficiary.
However, a business needs to work under the guidance of a skilled orchestrator. Therefore, it is essential that a Human System Management consultant work in concert with an organization’s leaders as a strategic partner to create Human Resource programs that align the efforts of people with the employers’ objectives to achieve common goals that will benefit everyone.
Some call this “organizational synergy.” In reality, a simpler way to think of it is organizational success.