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Currently Head of HR Development within an international group of 9,200 employees, I wanted to share with you the history, perspectives and give you my opinion on the place of the HR function in organizations. I have been working in a company for almost 20 years, with more than 16 years in the field of Human Resources. I went through different positions, specialized at the start and then generalist. In my career, when I was HR manager of an operational structure, I also wanted to transmit by sharing my experience with the younger generations. This is how I taught different modules such as the HR function, the history of unionism and negotiation techniques at the IAE and the EGC of Reunion.
The origins of the HR function, contributions from organizational theories
Elton MAYO, professor of psychology at Harvard, conducted a study in 1927 on the impact of lighting in the Western Electric Company's workshops to improve productivity. He pointed out the "Hawthorne" effect (from the name of the factory) by which the increase in productivity is first of all due to the attention paid to the workers. It was a revolution at the time; the first door open to the HR function. Other theories will follow with the creation of the School of Human Relations during the crisis of 1929. Taylorism is no longer recipe, it is decried. In 1936, Charlie CHAPLIN introduced the character of Charlot in "Les Temps Modernes", which struggles to survive in the industrialized world excessively, a beautiful satire of the line work. Kurt LEWIN focused on taking into account group dynamics and "leadership". Abraham MASLOW published in 1943 the theory of motivation and needs. Remember! The MASLOW pyramid we study at every management training. The bases are therefore laid ...
From the chief of staff to HR Business Partner
The HR function will evolve over time, depending on the periods of history, within organizations, through different roles. With industrialization, the first step was to discipline the workforce. Later, it was necessary to retain the employees. We then entered a "paternalistic" current. The companies started to set up social services (housing, infirmaries, canteens ...) and the first personnel services were born in big companies, such as Kodak in 1937. The "30 glorious" allowed the management model of Human Resources to appear clearly.
From a supervisory role (chiefs of staff, who were often former military), and then administrative, we are today in a more strategic role.
In many companies, the Human Resources Manager (RRH) is named HR Business Partner. The added value expected from an RRH is therefore its ability to support the company's strategy (restructuring, development, etc.). Beyond the compulsory administrative (contracts, payroll, certificates, ...), its role is to imagine, implement and monitor a coherent HR policy to support the General Management in its strategy. It must therefore be operational, "field", at the heart of the company and understand its operation, its various activities, or its "business".

An HR service that varies according to different parameters, especially the size of the company

In addition to the will of the General Management, the HR organization also develops according to the financial capacity of the company to set up such a service. The size of the organization remains essential. In a small business or SME, HR services are often restricted. It is not uncommon for the Officer himself to carry out this function, with the support of an external cabinet. The larger the organization in terms of number of employees, the greater the HR structure will be. Indeed, French social law introduces a certain number of obligations according to the thresholds of the workforce. Some studies show that the HR workforce is 2% on average of the total workforce. This figure is to be taken with caution because organizations vary not only according to their size, but also according to their management complexity.
A very wide HR scope, an extended scope of responsibilities
The HR function covers many areas, placing the individual at the heart of the organization. We are not going to develop them here, but just to quote them. Each theme could be the subject of an article.
Recruitment; the organization of work; the quality of life at work; payroll and personnel administration; Training; skills management with the notion of recognition; the legal; payroll management; social relations; occupational health and safety; HR information systems; social management control; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with equal opportunities for all, Diversity ...
Each area is important and strategic for the company. We can cite the example of recruitment. In a developing business, recruitment is a priority. We must therefore define, implement and monitor a strategy (through the development of our website, our employer brand, the use of social networks, the hosting of trainees and the development of relations with schools, ... ) to "find" and select the talents that will integrate the organization. The quality of recruitment is therefore a strategic issue that aims to enrich our teams. Once the employee is integrated, we carry the responsibility to support and develop the individual skills of employees, develop their "employability" through training.
This diversity of HR fields involves two types of positions in companies: the "specialist", who will be the expert of a field, such as the recruitment or training manager and the "generalist", who will be the " conductor "of the HR department. The latter knows, through his experience, the different areas but without being a "sharp" expert. Thus, in an HR career, you will have the choice to specialize or go to a more general function, team animation.
The perspectives of the HR function
As we have seen, the HR function is scalable. It follows the evolution of society. His field of responsibility is becoming more and more extensive, with an increase in the influence of HRD in the company's strategy. The role of advice, support for change, is essential today. Crisis; the arrival of the "digital", which transforms the company; the entry into the labor market of the new generations (Y, Z ...), which upset the codes; ... are all factors to integrate that undeniably impact organizations. In HR, we have to constantly reinvent ourselves. The challenges ahead are many.
In my opinion, the next challenges (with the economic recovery that is starting) will be: recruitment, internal talent identification and retention; support for the "digital" transformation of the company; to reinvent our organization of work through negotiation (specifically in French social law) and finally to move to the stage of Social Responsibility by integrating in our stakes equal opportunities for all.
A personal conclusion, the choice to integrate the HR domain
Working in HR is both an exciting but very demanding activity. The women and men who make up the company are unique (by their culture, their history, their life course ...) and reflect our society. Far from an exact management, quantified, controlled, the HR function must compose in a complex field, not controllable, difficult to quantify, the Human in the broad sense of the term (as the management of the "emotional capital" of the company). To integrate this function, in addition to a technical mastery of the different fields (contribution of a Master 2 HR and its experience), one must be pugnacious, enthusiastic, have personality, good relational capacity and questioning, with much humility.
Being a transverse function "support" is both a constraint, but above all, an opportunity.
The constraint lies in our positioning within the organization and the often caricatural and reductive vision we want to make it bear. The "HR Bashing", the HR function "scapegoat" are in fashion. The lack of knowledge of this function brings its share of criticisms. I tend to say that, beyond certain external factors (expressed above), we are in the front line of our own positioning in the organization and that of our team. This responsibility also depends on the perception of the effectiveness of the HR department internally. What should I do to give the dimension I want to the HR function?
This is where we each have the opportunity and the responsibility to go the extra mile in order to position the HR function as a strategic function, which contributes to the value creation of the company. Beyond obtaining concrete results, there is a pedagogical, communication and internal (or external) marketing work to do regarding our contribution. This means, for example, setting up, monitoring and presenting key indicators, highlighting the efficiency of the HR department. It is up to us to play, to be at the heart of the organization, with team cohesion and to provide the General Management, managers and employees with the necessary support in line with the strategy of the 'business.
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