Just because working with people is your business, It doesn’t mean working with your people is easy

Think about how much time you spend undertaking Human Resource activities in your working week?

10%, 20%, 50%…or is it much more? Often when we enter leadership or management roles, dealing with Human Resource (HR) matters seems like it will be such a small part of our everyday work. Those taking on management responsibilities often have minimal expertise and experience in areas such as recruitment, retention, performance management, pay and working conditions. As many of you would have experienced, this component of your work can become the biggest part of what you do, both time wise and emotionally. Finding ways to develop skills, knowledge and understanding of HR matters that allow you to support and lead your staff well, is essential to anyone in leadership.



The skills needed to recruit and select the right people; to induct them and offer a quality probation process; to keep them motivated and professionally developed; address performance issues as they arise; and farewell staff with appropriate levels of celebration should not be underestimated. The reality is that when things are going well in your organisation, delivering on these stages of the employee life cycle can happen with a great deal of ease and so not much attention is paid until things start to go pear shaped. When there is a clear understanding of where each employee is at and strategic responses to their needs are implemented, the skills needed for quality HR become your greatest asset. They allow you to minimise risk to your organisation, they act as an effective workload management tool for leaders and they open up new ways for you to connect with your staff and build high functioning teams.



It’s important when fulfilling a HR function that you are clear from the outset of where your boundaries lie, both in terms of your responsibilities and your capabilities. For example, your organisation’s existing policies and procedures in relation to matters like recruitment and selection need to be adhered to, but in examining them you may be able to find opportunities to engage in different interview questioning and models that still allow you to adhere to the policy. When boundaries are clear, you are more likely to get things right the first time and you are more likely to act ethically. The important distinction to make is that having clear boundaries is not about avoiding the parts of the work that are uncomfortable. For example, if you do not feel you have the skills to have a performance management conversation but it is a requirement of your role, you need to take steps to expand your skills or call in appropriate support in order for you to get it done. Feeling a level of discomfort is normal, particularly when conducting performance management processes or informing others of a decision that is not in their favour. Learning to balance your boundaries with your individual tolerance for uncomfortable situations is of great importance in fulfilling HR functions.



When walking through the different stages of the employee life cycle we often think that we have to do everything as per a step by step procedure. This means that some interactions around HR become dry and boring when they don’t need to be. When it comes to tasks like interviewing, building job descriptions, coaching and mentoring, conducting appraisals and doing exit interviewing there is a lot of opportunity to get creative and think outside of the box. Using art, group processes, strengths cards, critical reflection processes, external facilitators, action research and stakeholder engagement you can find that HR processes can also add value to many other parts of your service’s growth and development. For example, by asking a staff member to pick from a range of picture cards ones that represent: where they were 12 months ago in their role; where they are at now; and where they hope to be in 12 months, stimulates conversation that feeds easily into the appraisal process. This more creative questioning and exploration can prompt reflections and ideas that would otherwise remain untapped in a simple tick box, form filling out type of meeting.



There are many benefits to engaging in HR focused professional development and training. Improving the quality of your HR processes, filters through to all other aspects of your organisation and most importantly can promote good overall team functioning. Team morale increases when HR processes are clear, consistent and of a high quality. There is also a need to acknowledge that you cannot be all things, to all people, all of the time and therefore identifying a person, consultant or organisation who has a higher level of expertise in HR matters than you is essential to doing this part of your job well. There is great benefit in having someone on the bat phone that you can connect with at times of challenge.


(Beth Dwine, Dwine Consulting, In the Loop, Summer 2016)


The next online Effective HR online series starts in February.  You can enrol here – http://workforcecouncil.eventbrite.com/