HR responsibilities, once tasked to HR staff, slowly are being delegated to managers. Many agencies have already begun outsourcing key HR service on a temporary, recurring or permanent basis. Others have restructured their HR delivery systems in an attempt to save money, improve effectiveness and/or ward off threats of outsourcing (Ulrich, 1998, p. 3-4). As agencies continue to streamline HR, new structures are emerging to support innovative ways to deliver HR services.
While there is no one right way to deliver HR, many agencies are restructuring along similar lines. A number of agencies are reorganizing their HR workforce and delivery system around their leading customer, the manager. Within large, multi-mission agencies, service delivery is also being aligned with major mission areas. Advisory services are being established, staffed by HR generalists who provide front-line advisory and consultative services to managers.
“Back room” personnel functions are being centralized into shared service centers, staffed by HR specialists who coordinate and administer a variety of HR programs and services. The transformation of the role of human resources over the last decade has been nothing short of extraordinary. In the past, human resources, formerly called personnel, was mainly seen as rudimentary support service.
Primary functions included recordkeeping; maintaining the policies and procedures around hiring, firing or retiring; payroll and benefits administration; and employee communications (Laabs, 2000, p. 52-56) These roles in general were seen as necessary, even somewhat important, but of limited strategic value to the organization. The relationship between the personnel department and senior leadership was in most cases distant, with the performance expectation often being to keep the workforce content and extinguish any labor problems before they got out of control.
As organizations evolved and leaderships in most industries began to develop a broader sense of the powerful relationship between people, environment and business results, the role of human resources began to emerge. The title alone, moving from personnel to human resources, demonstrated a significant shift in how companies began to think about employees. The role of the human resources department and the skill sets and competencies for the human resources staff changed rapidly.
The profession was, and to a certain extent still is, in the midst of significant transformation. The roles of human resources department today reflect a very different view of the impact and influence the function plays in organizations. Key areas of contribution include recruitment and orientation, employee retention and strategic partnering (Solomon, 1994, p. 1). Preparing for the Challenges Ahead In the years ahead, agencies will likely be given new authorities to design unique pay systems tailored to their agency mission.
HR professionals will be relied upon by managers to use their HR technical competencies to help design and implement these new pay systems and to meet other challenges that arise in aligning HR systems to agency mission. In addition to HR technical expertise which will be a continuing requirement, competencies in the areas of system design, organizational culture, business strategy, change, consensus building, consultation, communication, and marketing skills will be even more important than they are now (Ulrich, 1998, p. 4-7).
With increased flexibility in pay, performance-based organizations and higher expectation on the part of line managers for strategic HR programs, HR will also be relied upon to a greater extent to serve in the role of change agent. That is, they will call upon not only to design new HR systems and processes, but also to facilitate and manage the change process. Conclusion As we examine the tremendous change in the repositioning of human resources in an organization, we must recognize that the learning curve is wide and the industry is changing rapidly. The human resources role of the future lies in the further maturation of the strategies previously described.
Ulrich, Dave. (1998). The Future Calls for Change. Available @ http://www. workforce. com Laabs, Jennifer K. (2000). Strategic HR Won’t Come Easily. Workforce. Vol. 79, No. 1. p. 52-56 Solomon, Charlene M. (1994). Managing the HR Career of the 90’s. Available @ http://www. workforce. com Ulrich, Dave. Losey, Michael R. , & Lake, Gerry. (1997). Tomorrow’s HR Management: Key Points 1