By Perminus Wainaina
Is Human Resources important in an organization?
As a HR Professional, how do you strategically place yourself in the organization? How do you ensure career growth?
The HR sector is one that has experienced growth in Kenya and the region over the last few years. More companies are realizing the importance of having a functioning and effective HR.
Last week, however, I had a conversation with a HR professional who works for a private medical center in Kisumu. For her privacy, I’ll refer to her as Lucy.
Lucy has been working with the company for eight years now.
In that time, she has been involved in the recruitment of over 80% of all the company’s employees. They used Corporate Staffing Services to recruit some of the senior managers.
Two years ago, however, Lucy received orders from the General Manager. He wanted her to recruit one of his relatives as the admin, despite the relative having no qualifications or experience in the role.
Moreover, the administration department was fully stacked and in order to bring in the relative, Lucy would have to terminate an existing (and performing) employee.
Lucy refused to bring on the relative, and this brought friction between her and the GM.
While conversing with Lucy, she wanted to know how she can place herself strategically in order to be involved in important conversations that affected the business. Moreover, she wanted her input to be considered as she had direct involvement with the employees.
I have interacted with HR managers across several fields, and most of them have uniquely different issues. However, there’s one issue that cuts across the field.
HR professionals feel as though their positions –and even themselves to an extent, are considered as an aesthetic feature of the business.
The senior management, especially, does not put a lot of emphasis on the HR department as they see it as a ‘nice to have’ department and not a ‘need to have.’
How do you, as a HR professional, move from being looked down on and get to a strategic position where your voice is heard?
1. Have an overall knowledge of your business
Over the years, I have met exceptional HR professionals. They have an in-depth understanding of the HR profession and would be a great addition to any company.
However, when you ask some of them what the company does, they cannot give you a detailed answer.
Being strategic means going beyond making timely payments and minimizing liability issues for the company.
If you want to have your voice heard, you need to know what your company deals in.
One aspect where I have seen professionals understand the business is the sales and marketing departments. When you talk to most marketing professionals, they can give you a detailed analysis of the company; they can also tie back their work to the benefit it brings to the company.
As HR, you need to do the same. Different businesses operate differently, when you know the specifics, you benefit in two ways: one, you’re able to customize services in your department to fit the employee’s needs.
Two, learning more about the business will give merit to your input. When you know how the company operates, you’ll be in a better position to give valued and actionable feedback.
2. Be actively involved in the company’s services and activities.
Years ago, when I was still in the banking sector, I would only see the HR when he needed to update details pertaining to salaries, or there was a HR related query.
If this is the approach you take, it is hard for you to be strategically placed in an organization.
If you want to grow your career as a professional, you need to interact with the senior management and other professionals in the organization.
Take advantage of the activities in your organization. Interact with senior management. Then, they will see you as more than just the HR department. Moreover, during the interaction, you could give valuable ideas which will also help you move into a strategic role.
At the end of the day, you have to realize that to grow as a HR professional, you’ll need to put in the work and effort. The starting point is being noticeable, from there, you can then go to giving valuable input. This will surely work towards cementing your role and authority in the organization.
If you want to be seen as more than just the professional in charge of making timely payments, you have to be actively involved.
Perminus Wainaina is an experienced HR Practioner with over 15 years experience in executive recruitment and selection, training, performance management, and Kenyan labour laws.
He has consulted for firms such as Safaricom Sacco, Oxfam, Un Women, Pacis Insurance, Windsor Golf, Muthaiga Country Club, etc. Currently, he represents the private sector at KEBS in the HR standardization committee.