The Human Resources department is a strategic function in our companies. It guarantees the transformation and development of our organisations.
The changing role of the HR department in company development
The Human Resources function, like other support functions within companies, has undergone many changes. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the HR department has seen its role, positioning and operation change to become a strategic function. Today it is the main player in the development of companies.
The personnel department
Following the emergence of the Industrial Revolution and the wage-labour movement in the early 1900s, many companies opted for a Taylorian organisation of work, with the aim of dividing tasks and increasing productivity. It was at this time that the first personnel departments were created.
Historically, the aim of this service was to provide the company with the personnel needed for the smooth running of its operations. Therefore, it implies ensuring that the company has a sufficient number of employees, but also competent and motivated for the good development of the organisation.
The first major transformation of the function of personnel departments took place in the 1930s following the influence of Elton Mayo’s work (Founder of the School of Human Relations), which showed the first limits of the Taylorian work organisation. His study demonstrates that psychological factors have a great influence on the productivity and performance of work groups.
The rational organisation of work no longer appears to be the key to business productivity. This discovery led to a change in the service missions of personnel departments. From now on, they will be more varied and will no longer be limited to the recruitment of employees.
They are concerned with the living conditions of employees in the company and associate them with the company’s performance objectives. This diversification of tasks has led to the evolution of the personnel department into a new function, the HR function.
The HR function
The HR function began to take on its full meaning following the work of Fred Emery and Eric Trist at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, in England, in 1950. These two psychologists placed the ability of companies to structure the human, social and technical dimensions of work at the heart of collective efficiency.
The HR function then positioned itself as a key player in the evolution of companies. Its mission is to develop companies’ human capital, to train it, and to build loyalty to ensure the proper economic development of organisations.
In the early 2000s, companies became increasingly interested in innovation and understood that it was the best way to gain market share and differentiate themselves from their competitors. Companies need to rethink their products and services, their customer relationships, their agility, and their ways of working. Behind each of these challenges, there are people, or rather sets of skills, networks and a culture that must also adapt.
The HR function positions itself as the conductor of this transformation. It is now taking part in the vision of companies and in the development of their strategies.
The strategic role of Human Resources in 2020
In 2020, Human Resources are at the heart of business development in the short, medium and long term. They are positioned as the central and indispensable driving force behind the organisational and digital transformation of companies.
The Covid 19 crisis has been an eye-opener for many organisations of their importance. Indeed, HR departments have had a strategic role. They have been the guarantors of the evolution and transformation of work methods and organisation in companies:
- They organised remote work.
- They ensured that remote work was set up with the adequate material and organisational conditions.
- They maintained the efficiency and productivity of all employees by taking care of their health and safety.
- They communicated transparently on the evolution of the situation and its consequences for the company.
The role of Human Resources has evolved over the decades. The limitations of the Taylorian work organisation have positioned the HR department as a major player in the development of companies.
HR strategy at the heart of company development
The HR function has evolved from an organisational function to a strategic function in business development. In the rest of this article we study HR strategy in order to better understand its challenges.
Definition of HR strategy
HR strategy is the long-term vision of the strategic directions to be followed by a company. It enables companies to link their human capital to their competitiveness objectives by promoting employee loyalty and development.
HR strategy adapts to current issues and different contexts faced by the company. It is a process of anticipating and managing human resources to pre-empt potential changes. The implementation of an HR strategy involves a number of stages:
- In-depth analysis of the company’s situation in terms of skills and workforce.
- Formulation of the company’s long-term objectives in terms of performance and competitiveness.
- Projection of future trends facing the company (legislative, demographic, social, technological and environmental changes)
In a second step, the HR department has to measure the gaps between the company’s future expectations and the company’s actual skills. This phase then enables to build a strategy and action plans in order to meet the identified needs.
Applying the HR strategy via the HR policy
HR strategy provides a long-term vision of human resources management. HR policy represents the operational implementation of this vision through concrete measures and actions. The role of Human Resources is then to accompany and drive the transformation of the company.
HR policy is carried out via several lines of work:
- Administrative management: It must be centralised and secure to ensure the management of payroll, administrative follow-up and regulations.
- Recruitment policy: It must be implemented by including several measures such as talent retention, employee experience and employer branding.
- Individual monitoring of employees: HR policy must ensure the monitoring and management of employees and human relations within the company by taking into account their feelings and their needs.
- Skills development: The company must ensure that it trains its employees to ensure a sustainable and innovative future.
- Transmission of information: HR policy must provide the company’s governing bodies with clear and transparent information necessary for the management of the company.
HR strategy and policy are therefore complementary and ensure the development of the company through human capital.
The keys to success for human resources to develop the company of tomorrow
The objectives of HR strategy and management evolve in line with the concept of work. Social, societal and technological changes have consequences on these strategies and bring about new ones. Let’s examine what the main trends are today in order to optimise your HR strategy with the aim of developing the company in the long term.
The employment brand
The employment brand is based on modern marketing techniques. It is a group of actions with the aim of making the company, “the brand”, attractive to future employees. This strategy highlights the notion of the company’s reputation, its values and its communication.
In other words, the employment brand is storytelling to better sell the company to talents. This strategy helps to differentiate the company from its competitors. But it mainly helps to build loyalty amongst employees already present in the company and to improve the company’s image through a better reputation.
The attractiveness of the company and the retention of talent are essential issues for developing the company of tomorrow. The creation of a positive employer brand enables companies to reduce costs related to turnover and improve innovation.
The employee experience
Employee experience is a concept that is inspired by the customer experience. It defines all of the interactions and experiences an employee has within their company from the time of recruitment until the time they leave.
Human Resources must build a path for all the company’s employees in order to facilitate their integration, improve their working conditions and facilitate communication.
This is a key notion within the Human Resources department. Indeed, a satisfied customer is a customer who has a vocation to become an ambassador for the company. A satisfied employee can, in turn, become an ambassador for the company. Employee experience is a driving force for the productivity of companies.
Corporate culture is positioned as a management tool. It is defined as the set of values, behaviours and professional practices shared by the members of a company.
The creation of an inspiring and positive corporate culture by the human resources department aims to foster social cohesion but also and above all to adapt to changes by enabling the company to become agile and flexible.
This strategy enables all employees to unite around a common project that is close to their hearts. By sharing common values, employees feel more motivated. As for the company, it differentiates itself from its competitors and becomes more attractive.
All these strategies are interconnected and complementary. Their main mission is to improve employee commitment within the company. It can also be noted that all these strategies refer to the concept of quality of work life (QWL). The keys to the success of human resources to develop the company of tomorrow lie in QWL.
Human Resources and QWL: A winning duo to develop the company
Human Resources departments are the guarantors of the transformation of companies. The best way to develop a sustainable organisation is to implement a QWL policy.
Quality of Work Life (QWL)
Quality of work life is a complex concept with many dimensions. Far from a reductive vision that would consist in associating it with the simple happiness of the employee in the company, QWL is a global, strategic and organisational approach to work.
According to The American Society of Training and Development, it corresponds to:
A process of work organizations which enable its members at all levels to actively; participate in shaping the organizations environment, methods and outcomes. This value-based process is aimed towards meeting the twin goals of enhanced effectiveness of organizations and improved quality of work life for employees.
Establishing a corporate culture based on dialogue, caring and trust is a strategic axis to ensure the health of its employees and boost their productivity. Quality of work life is a real performance lever!
Combining QWL and HR strategy to improve company performance
Today’s companies must transform themselves to improve their performance and last over time. This transformation requires above all a revolution in corporate culture and must include quality of work life at the heart of its strategy.
The human being must be placed at the centre of concerns. An environment conducive to fulfilment, surpassing oneself and achieving one’s objectives enables each employee to create performance and value for the company.
In addition, quality of work life enables organisations to develop essential characteristics for long-term development. Indeed, a QWL policy enables them to adapt quickly to unexpected changes while maintaining strategic, operational and human continuity.
It also enables companies to transform their organisation and working methods to meet the challenges of the market and their employees new demands. Finally, it seeks to engage and retain their employees over the long term by playing on both the flexibility and agility of the organisation. The company’s transformation must allow employees to share new ideas and test them.
Without QWL, there can be no business transformation and no sustainable performance and competitiveness. More than ever, the HR function is at the heart of corporate strategy and development as it is the guarantor of the implementation of a QWL policy within the company.
HR has positioned itself as the most strategic function in the company. Tomorrow’s new CEOs will come more from the HR function than they did before as it will no longer be a question of being the best salesperson or the most experienced, but of being able to adapt to change. Indeed, at the heart of HR transformation challenges are issues relating to personal data, transparency, commitment, employee and candidate experience, but above all, agility, a determining factor in the modern competitiveness of companies.