Corporates across the world are changing. They are changing faster than ever before. During the last one and half a decade such changes have assumed a huge proportion and almost all the functions in the corporates have been swamped by such changes. HR is no exception.
Traditionally, HR has always been considered as a support function in the business and continued to play this role for a long time. Naturally, questions which were raised about this kind of existence of HR in business was either taken as a fait accompli or brushed aside as a complaint lodged by other functions of the business (somewhat similar to “sibling rivalry”).
Fortunate, that some serious considerations have found its place. The debate whether HR should continue to play such a constricted and traditional (hence
unchangeable) role has taken a serious turn. Today it is considered worth that reviewing HR’s role in the context of changing business is neither in fructuous nor an academic exercise.
One of the important, if not the most important, reason of change in corporates and consequently, the ways of doing business, is globalization*.
Global organizations are seen more today than ever before and therefore the importance of understanding the role of HR in the new perspective.**
However, the impact of globalization on HR has both brought hopes and generated serious challenges for HR professionals. This is succinctly pointed by Dr. Wayne Brockbank, â There has never been a more exciting time to be a HR professional. The business world demands greater value from the HR profession and HR is uniquely positioned to deliver these organizational
How are the HR professionals viewing this â exciting times ? How are they doing what they need to do in this changing time? These are the remarkable challenges to both HR professionals and the profession itself. There are CEOs who have voiced their desperation and dissatisfaction while taking a stock of HR functions in their organisations. In fact, Prof. Dave Ulrich raised the question, in 1998, â Should we do away with human resources (HR)?â He continues, â In recent years, a number of people who study and write about business â along with many who run business â have been debating that question. The debate arises out of serious and widespread doubts about HRâ s contribution to organizational performanceâ ¦But the truth is, HR has never been so necessaryâ ¦achieving organizational excellence must be the work of HRâ ¦HR should not be defined by what it does but by what it delivers â results that enrich the organizationâ s value to customers, investors, and employees.â
Increased uncertainty and turmoil have characterized the environment over the past 10 years. HRM practitioners have had to adapt and respond flexibly to a series of unforeseen events. The Asia economic crisis of 1997, the terrorist attacks of 2002, and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have all presented unique challenges to HRM. The new role HRM has led to new responsibilities that require a more analytical, future-oriented approach. HRM needs to become a far more proactive function that must continuously ask two critical business questions:
1 What trends will reshape the HRM function?
2 What does an effective HRM professional need to know?
The following are the competitive challenges ahead:
Globalization â it dominates the competitive horizon, uncertain politics of global markets
Value chain for business competitiveness and HR Services
Profitability through cost and growth
Attracting, retaining and measuring competence and Intellectual Capital
The HR challenge is to shift from doables to deliverables and in doing so the transition has to be from
Operational to strategic
Qualitative to quantitative
Policing to partnering
Short-term to long-term
Administrative to consultative
Functionally oriented to business oriented
Internally focused to externally and customer â focused
Reactive to proactive
Activity-focused to solutions-focused.
These are difficult tasks for HR professionals but not impossible to achieve. Achieving these will determine whether the HR function will be able to remain an integral part of doing business in the globalized environment.
* â Globalization â ¦ has given many people in the developing countries access to knowledge well beyond the reach of even the wealthiest in any country a century ago.â Joseph Stiglitz: Globalization and its discontents, Penguin, 2003, p 4.
** â Globalizaion both symbolizes and creates a convergence of economic and social forces, values and tastes, challenges and opportunitiesâ ¦global corporations success depends equally on developing their human resources and restructuring their strategies and operations. Human resource development
(HRD) will become companiesâ critical lever for success in the global age.
â ¦organizations which operate globally must now compete for the most important resource of all â talentâ . M Marquardt, Nancy Berger & Peter
Loan: HRD in the age of globalization, Basic Books, 2004, p3.