Are You a Vigilant HR Leader?

Sudarsan Pathak

The HR department has to act as the facilitator of change in any organization

The human resources department is an integral part of any organization that partners with the management and the employee teams to define the organizational system, processes and policies, and set a rhythm so that the organizational goals are met. HR is not just a supporting function anymore; HR people are meant to be strong communicators and influencers who are able to provide guidance on a range of issues and influence new ways of doing things to improve the organization’s operations.

The HR department has to act as the facilitator of change in any organization. HR professionals need to hone skills like emotional intelligence, strong leadership and knowledge of the latest HR tools and technology on analytics. On top of this, it’s very important for HR leaders to remain vigilant. Ate you a vigilant HR leader? This is a very important question that HR leaders should be able to answer.

Generally, staying vigilant would mean knowing when you are in danger and being able to prevent the threat before it occurs. It’s a way of assessing or calculating potential organizational risks and preparing an action plan before it occurs. It will help to keep the organization steady and keep the momentum going. It will also mean detecting an early sign of opportunities and making the most of it before someone else identifies it.

Having a vigilant HR team will also mean the people won’t deviate from their performance targets, will enhance team bonding/unity, make employees feel secure, grows the trust of the management committee or investors and increases the overall productivity of the organization. It also means that the HR department is aware of the possible business opportunities and offers an idea to the management/team on time. But the question here is how an HR leader can remain vigilant. What actions have to be taken to stay vigilant?

1. If you see something, say something:
A HR leader can’t remain quiet and let something go/happen when they see something is happening. Happening something here may mean any change in the processes, change in daily routines, work processes, or a change in employee behavior. If an HR leader notices an employee reasonably upset or below the standard of their performance, it’s very important to talk to them. S/he might have been upset with some official things or might even have some personal issues. Speaking to them in such a situation and offering any help or asking if the HR department can be of any help would be a great way to boost employee morale. This will increase the employee’s confidence in the organization, enhance loyalty and ultimately will result in improved performance.

Another example could be responding to any personal events of employees whether it could be a personal loss to her/him or her/his health issues or academic issues or even poor performance. This is all a general human attribute we must have. This will help to keep the organizational environment healthy/fresh and will also avoid any possible deterioration in work performance. Another thing would also be responding to suspicious behavior or activity within the organization. Such a response will mean taking necessary action on its own or calling for appropriate assistance. Suspicious activity could mean anything related to the employees or external factors like theft, trespassing, fire, earthquake, noticing unattended items, or anything similar. It would also mean noticing HR/business opportunities and offering the same to the concerned people on time so that the organization/people can make the most from it. This competency from an HR leader can be the differentiating factor for an organization’s success.

2. Keep an eye on the industry: 
This would mean keeping an eye on the competing companies in the market. While doing our best within the organization, it is also very important that we keep ourselves updated about the development that is happening in the market because the change in the market could add a threat to our existing HR system. Any kind of change in people or policies in the industry and if we fail to keep up or above the same could impact our people/organizational management and ultimately impact our business performance.

Imagine a situation where other similar nature organizations have a better compensation and benefits policy, better incentive policy, more employee-friendly policy, better OHS policy or are differentiating themselves in any way among the completion, it may result in higher attrition in our companies, increases employee grievances, may result to degraded performances. This may not just relate to HR differentiation but also in terms of hiring a quality workforce, making robust business policies, create a customer-loyal environment too. On the other side, it also means realizing the strength of the organizational policies/cultures and keep an effort to keep them on top so that no one else could match the organization’s strength. Hence, an HR leader should remain up to date about the industry, her/his level of intelligence should always remain on the top and act immediately on the possible change in the market situation which would impact on own organization.

3. Forecast risks from external factors and plan and accordingly/stay open to diverse perspectives:
In any business risks from outside the organization are always alive. Such risks may come from somewhere beyond the organization or even the industry. Some examples in this context are the risk of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, or the global economic recession. For such risks, you may forecast but cannot control such unfortunate events. But since they may have a severe impact on your business, it’s very important that the HR leaders plan against them on time. If the HR leaders leave it late to respond to such factors, at times it may be too late that the organization and the people within may suffer unbearable loss. Hence, forecasting impacts from such situations and taking precautionary actions on time will be to the benefit of every stakeholder.

Imagine a situation such as when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the whole world was suffering, and HR leaders fail to act on time for the safety of their employees. Such a situation won’t just cause the loss of business but also will cause the loss of invaluable lives of people. The current economic slowdown is also worth mentioning in this respect as almost all industries are suffering because of a sharp decline in business. It has made organizational targets look stiff and the frustration among employees has gone higher. Hence, it’s very important that the HR department assess the situation on time, make policies to keep the employees motivated, offer them support to meet their performance targets and keep the organizational environment alive. Leaving it late to respond until when the organization and people have already suffered significantly isn’t a desired quality from an HR leader. S/he should always be open/aware of the diverse perspectives and offer an early/timely solution to the same.

4. Regular SWOT analysis of the company: 
A regular SWOT analysis of the company would help the HR leaders to identify the updated strengths and weaknesses of the organization. It’s very important to know the latest issues about the organization and plan accordingly. Because the business dynamics keep/may keep changing so does the organization’s business opportunities.

To conclude, because an HR leader is a strategic partner s/he must act above the operational functions. HR leaders must focus on external factors, apply strategic foresight, encourage people to explore widely and create a culture of discovery and innovation.

Pathak is Sr. Manager-Human Resources at IME Motors Ashok Leyland Nepal. 

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