Why is HR an integrated activity?

Why is HR an integrated activity? Because it’s business within the business. 

Every day there are employees, managers, unions and companies dissatisfied with the performance of HR and tend to rightly demand immediate improvements in certain specific aspects of HR, such as recruitment, training, compensation and so on. HR managers and businesses tend to react and implement what they see as quick wins. Those tactical moves repeated along years may end up triggering cause effects in the integrity of an HR operation, generating unwanted imbalances.

In this article I show some examples of how deeply interconnected the HR function is, therefore demanding sound judgment and an integrated approach to problem solving. Inadequate design, infrastructure or execution in any of the HR specialisms often has an impact on the effectiveness of other HR specialisms and ultimately affects the overall output of HR.

Lessons learnt

When I became Technical Training and Development Manager of an oil services company I was inducted on all existing training programs, partners and infrastructure at my disposal and I was absolutely stunned with the amount of knowledge and body of work available to operate the function.

Well, it just seemed that if I would ever be able to comprehend and operate the existing programs, I could be astoundly successful.

I was always cautious and as a first step always seek to work with what was in place, until I really grasped it and only then would I ever try to make things mine sort of say and tweak, tune or add. This was absolutely a lesson hardly learnt from my rookie years when I was so creative that I would tend to re-invent every wheel on the planet (I am glad I still kept the best part of that!).

So after the initial operating cycle I started to ask questions, which only occurs when you are able to look at the big picture, to understand what every detail can tell you.

Training needs analysis

Training can be easily turned into a routine and become inadequate, hindering competitiveness and losing the edge it is supposed to have on innovation, employee development and satisfaction.

When was the last time it was consistently done, meaning when was the last time a senior per discipline assessor visited the operation and conducted a thorough analysis of where employees were on their knowledge and operational journeys, not mention the values, behaviours and reason to exist of the company?

Besides the findings of HSSE accident investigations and near misses databases, generating refresher training responses, when was the last time employees training feedbacks were aggregated and discussed into meaningful responses, and thoroughly implemented and measured?

Appointments vs. hires

It is interesting to see how an HR specialism performs by assessing the output of another HR specialism. That can be the case of training and recruitment, for instance.

If you look at training and development as a yearly calendar of classes appointments and Industry compliance certifications, you are doing great, you are getting the basics right. That is commendable by itself!

But you need to go a step further. You need to understand other data, to make more accurate data driven decisions. Some of that data sits outside training per se. 

How many appointments or promotions have been done and how many dead ends happened when there was no other knowledge solution but to rush for new hires. Plans and growth apart, what capability have you hired in emergency mode and why did you not developed that one as resident knowledge?

Is training (and development) really that effective?

Training evaluation is a crucial revelator of where you need to improve. It must not be operated as a compliant activity but rather as a meaningful tool.

As soon as my team got energized and revamped the evaluation, I started to realize amongst other findings, that a triad of inter-related cause-effects had unearthed. It had been lingering for long, covered by both employees fears of exposing their lack of knowledge, by trainers pushing for statistics and by managers avid to get their hands on much needed resources quickly:  

  • Employees were missing basic knowledge of English, Mathematics and Physics which hindered the rates of content absorption and true access to understanding norms, and more dangerously, a poor quality of technical and operational communication between ranks.
  • Trainers were adjusting programs too far, and lowering the demand levels (both theory and practise) particularly helping employees to hit targets that they would otherwise take longer to achieve and declaring operational maturity way ahead of time, trusting that mentors and buddies in operations would fill bigger and bigger gaps.
  • Employees landing in operations with acute inability to think for themselves were excessively depending on more experienced workers who were even more under pressure.

And it all can still look perfect at a first glance with interesting nationalisation statistics much need to keep the good will and a license to operate.

Internal mobility and cost

Soon, internal mobility starts to pay the toll and you go hire on a high market phase. It all boils down to business, it’s good business or it’s bad business. Good HR is money earned !

As stated in the title of this article, HR is an integrated activity and when you tackle any specialism in HR, it is bound to have a cause effect on another. As our example, a lack of deep rooted data driven action in training and development will trigger a firefighting reaction in recruitment It also can affect the company bottom-line compensation budget because you have to spend more hiring in despair, after you invested in training. 

So think you now pay existing employees year-on-year with incremental cost, an amount for which they do not exert the value back, simply because they do not know enough! And because they do not know enough, other employees get strained, and overall staff satisfaction decreases. You will incur the risk of staff turnover and soon client loss and more dangerously, because people lose focus, HSSE hazards.

Meaning to say that one part of an HR cycle, like training, can contribute decisively with its cause effect attached, to make or break a business.

HR is a business within the business. Make sure you do it well in an integrated way !

About the Author

Great insights by Miguel O. a commercially focused HR professional and consultant with Consult 2050.

Miguel is a senior HR professional with global experience attained with BP, Chevron, Ensco, OMV and has a significant ground up experience. He started his career as an Operator in Downstream (Refining and Marketing) graduated while working and became Global Talent Manager with BP and later moved to Upstream (Exploration and Production).

He was board member Managing HR for Ensco in Angola, and for OMV in Tunisia and Upstream Business Partner in Austria with Romania, Australasia, Kazakhstan and entry to Russia on his Portfolio.

He can help with HR transformation both hands-on tactics and also strategic, being able to generate traction with day-to-day HR and strategic projects involving human capital. His edge rests on developing HR professionals, aiming teams and organizations for growth and advising boards on HR direction and transformation.