Yes, the HR function has evolved, but where on scale are its pilots?

Tom Kamaliki | 22nd June 2020

Productivity
Yes, the HR function has evolved, but where on scale are its pilots?

Yes, the HR function has evolved, but where on scale are its pilots?

Tom Kamaliki | 22nd June 2020

Productivity

Yes, the hr function has evolved, but where on the scale are its pilots?

 

Somewhere in the 1990s, my dream to join the HR family came to pass. Glory to God. I love HR, I live HR and I dream HR. It is in my DNA. During my A-levels in the 1980s, I had two main career dreams; First was Law because I wanted to step in my late father’s shoes. I missed it by some inches. Next was HR, by then known as ‘Personnel’ because of my great love to people irrespective of their levels and family backgrounds. Other than the main two, I had Journalism in mind because I love writing. Fortunately, HR landed at my doorstep and here I ‘am. However, I’m working hard with the grace of God to apply it to doing higher things.

 

Since 1901 when the first HR ( Personnel Management) was created in response to a strike at the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, Ohio, USA, the HR function has gone through a series of evolution as an important business unit, but it has always scored very low in almost every survey I have come across. Currently, there is an outcome of a survey conducted by the Sunday Times that has elicited heated complaints from the HR circles. I wish Prophet Jeremiah were still alive to re-write the book of Lamentations. He would have a whole chapter on the ‘’Lamentations of HR Practitioners’’. The title of the survey reads ‘’ESSENTIAL OR NOT?”. Among the top 5 Non-Essential jobs was that of HR Manager which scored last (No 5) with 43%. Most HR practitioners in my country reacted in Kiswahili saying ‘Shetani ashindwe’meaning ‘’May the devil be defeated’’

 

We have always blamed the devil when in the real sense the problem lies with us! Why should a cleaner in the same survey secure a seat in the category of Top 5 Essential roles and clinch No 2 with 78%? What is it that the cleaners do better than us in HR? Who bewitched us? I have an image in mind where you come to the office early morning and you find the Cleaner already cleaned your office and the table well-arranged. After cleaning your office, she/he will courteously knock your door with a happy face of good morning or good afternoon while serving you with 10 and 4 o’clock tea! What a service that deserves a thumb-up? This is the opposite of most HR guys. We are very much obsessed with ‘’HR should be strategic, visionary, transformative, and be able to articulate the organization’s vision, mission, and core values and translate them into actionable activities.’’ We believe by being obsessed with these will earn as a seat to the high table, close to the bridal party at a wedding. To me, obviously a big No.

 

I do not mean that understanding and articulating the company’s vision, mission, values, and being strategic and transformative is of less value. It is indeed of very great value. However, if we do not style up and embed the softer people skills and values in our day-to-day running of the HR function, all our strategic thinking is meaningless. I once worked at a certain international organization and unconsciously, employees baptized me a new name, ‘Papa ‘meaning ‘Father’ and up to now, every employee from this organization, either current or former, still addresses me by this name when they call, or when they text. Why? Because of the love and respect, I had towards them by succeeding in creating a great-place-to-work culture where I managed to convert a workplace into number one home since this is where employees spend more than three-quarters of their everyday life from Monday to Friday. How many of us have rushed into recommending unfair penalties to our staff? How many cases in labor courts have been awarded to employees because of unfair labor decisions that we championed? How many of us do create time to have tea with junior staff? Before the day’s business kicks off, how many of us go round saying hi to employees, just the normal ‘’Good-Morning-Culture?’’ How many of us go beyond work and try to find out if our employee’s family members and beloved ones are fairing on well? One of the reasons why I was baptized Papa is that I managed to change the scope of the Annual Retreat in Mombasa every December prior to Christmas from an event of reviewing the year’s progress into a dancing and having-fun event where for 4 days, the staff was doing nothing but dancing, beach games and all sorts of fun- just to unwind. For the progress review, I recommended 3 hours for the Senior Management Team only. I mean, it was not making sense to a cleaner and a driver being taken through financial figures of funding, expenditure, burn rates, etc! Let employees have fun for having worked hard the whole year! Why fatigue them further with mathematics lessons that some do not even understand? I recall how I used to take lead on the first-morning session with Lyrics of ‘Lean on me, when you are not strong, originally done by Bill Withers in 1972’. This song became our national anthem in every team-building event.

 

Every staff remembers how the audible PA sound system could get wild in the air in a big hall in those five-star beach hotels in Mombasa, and over 200 staff are in a big circle, everyone holding to each other’s shoulder as everybody joined in the singing! It was fun and you could see joy registered on every employee’s face. For one of the evenings, I came up with The Country Director’s Dinner where every staff was in African attire, with the Country Director and Team Leaders opening the dance on the floor while all the rest could joint at their pleasure. It was an evening of dancing, beach buffet, dancing competitions, etc. Oh God! What is a simple way for HR to make staff happy and bring them together? What I simply mean is, Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, and Employee Welfare are very key skills that HR people should master! Such soft simple things contributed to over 90% retention. Recently, an HR colleague called me for advice. That one of their staff who had worked with them for over 5 years was leaving and that he had 10 excess leave days which they were contemplating to recover from his terminal dues. I just laughed back on phone. My answer was simple;’ ten days leave and over five years of employee’s dedicated service with excellent output, which one would you consider as important? 

 

Thank you for getting the time to read this article and I hope it will help us in our people-management skills.

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