Human resources, human capital and workforce development are terms that HR directors toss around when they simply mean they want a world-class employee base. But achieving that level of organizational resources first requires identifying specific objectives, such as engaging executive leadership, initiating training and development opportunities, and shifting the administrative-like image of HR to one that's integrally involved in organizational success through strategic planning and implementation.
On practically every HR director's list of objectives is gaining acceptance and support from executive leadership. Gone are the days when all personnel administration employees did was hand out paychecks, enroll employees in benefit plans, and keep track of vacation. Many HR directors outsource the department's functional duties so it frees up time, staff, and HR department resources to concentrate on impressing upon leadership how vital human resources -- meaning the workforce and the department -- are to the organization's overall goals. This process is called, "tying the functional set of goals to the corporate goals," according to Robert Coon, a San Francisco-based human capital consultant who presented this novel idea to executive leadership when Coon was head of Daisy Systems Corp., a software development company in Los Altos, California. Gaining acceptance and support includes providing executive leadership with factual data that justifies a return on investment in HR activities.
Establishing HR's credibility among employees is near the top of the list of any director's performance objectives and, if executive leadership is already onboard with supporting HR activities, strengthening the employer-employee relationship assumes the No. 1 spot. Championing the company's employee relations efforts, resolving workplace issues, and improving employee morale are among the successes that enable HR directors to meet this performance objective. In addition, ensuring that HR follows through on its responsibilities to the company's "internal customers" -- the employees -- is another objective that HR directors identify for themselves and their departmental staff.
Employer of Choice
Companies that are employers of choice have applicants clamoring for open spots, a collegial work environment, engaged employees, and forward-thinking leadership. That's a tall order, but many organizations reach that designation by developing competitive compensation and benefits structures, and selecting candidates who fit the workplace culture and who make significant contributions to the company's success. HR directors who understand the importance of these intangible objectives on the road to employer of choice status make developing actions plans one of their primary objectives. Action plans contain a series of steps or milestones that address every aspect of being an industry leader among business competitors, and an organization that both employees and prospective employees admire.
Labor and employment laws are complex and seem to be changing constantly. Therefore, HR directors' compliance-related objectives begin with a thorough understanding of applicable laws, policy interpretation, and continual updates to ensure the employer complies with federal, state, and local employment regulations. In addition to HR departmental oversight regarding employment regulations, legal counsel for the organization may also be involved. Attorneys should be involved in proactive steps to achieve compliance and not simply act as the company's representative -- in a reactive role -- when in-house complaints about unfair employment issues look like they might turn into formal complaints or litigation.
Empowering departmental managers is tantamount to the success of many HR directors. Empowerment through leadership training enables department supervisors and managers to be the first to respond to employee issues, which often relieves HR of the hand-holding guidance they often provide to department leaders. Developing the skills and expertise of HR department staff is also an objective worth pursuing. HR directors are equally as responsible for keeping their department staff engaged in their work as other department leaders. Therefore, giving HR staff opportunities such as job-shadowing and cross-functional training, and recognizing their capabilities, talents, and interests are counted among the HR director's many performance objectives.