The important role that human resources (HR) plays in an organisation has been acknowledged for decades (Barney and Wright, 1998). However, not all firms transparently acknowledge the value of HR. This portfolio will evaluate what it means to be an HR professional and describe the elements of group dynamics (giving examples of conflict resolution methods). The portfolio will also outline project management techniques used on a recent project as well as ways in which I have successfully influenced, persuaded and negotiated with others in the course of a project. Lastly, the portfolio will identify an area of my own practice that needs professional development and how I plan to improve it. A personal development plan will be given based on this area of practice.
2.0 What it means to be an HR professional
An HR professional has the knowledge, skills and tools available to ensure success within the organisation. As outlined in the diagram below, Ulrich identified four HR roles: strategic partner, change agent, administrative expert and employee champion (thorogoodpublishing.co.uk, 2017).
The model emphasises the importance of having specialist knowledge and the obstacles that HR professionals face. More recently, people are even referring to HR as strategic HR, as it contributes to overall business success (Jackson, Schuler and Jiang, 2014). The Continuous Improvement for People Development (CIPD), have put together a comprehensive diagram which helps HR professionals to evaluate the different stages that they are at within their careers (www2.cipd.co.uk, 2017). An HR professional should always be assessing the stage of career in which they are at, and they should always be addressing how they can fill the gaps and develop their careers. An HR professional should also be consistently evaluating the organisation's growth, where the business is and where it should be, identifying talent for the business and driving business growth. The CIPD Profession Map helps to address both the HR professional's needs and aspirations as well as the organisation's needs and aspirations. There are 10 categories that the profession map refers to. Two of these categories are important for all HR professionals. These two categories are Leading HR as well as insights, strategy and solutions. The other eight categories identify skills and knowledge needed within the HR profession and organisation. When I look at the profession map I am very confident with my skills and expertise in resource and talent planning, learning and development, employee engagement, insights strategy and solutions as well as leading HR. It is these five areas I have been focusing on for the last five years within the positions that I have held. However, I know that I need to develop my skills in organisation design, organisation development, performance and reward, employee relations and service and delivery information. When I look at myself in relation to the new online marketing start-up, Thimba Media, which I will be joining, the most important areas that they I will need to focus on are: resource and talent planning, performance and reward, employee engagement and employee relations.
An HR professional also needs to portray particular behaviours which are described in the CIPD profession map. HR professionals represent the employees in the organisations and therefore have to be at the forefront of implementing behaviours within the organisation. HR practice has an effect, whether good or bad, on employee turnover (Allen, Shore and Griffeth, 2003). If an HR professional is not portraying the right behaviours and implementing the right practices, or professional areas it could lead to employee turnover.
Furthermore, the CIPD Profession Map identifies four bands which helps the HR professional to assess one's level of expertise and knowledge. It is important for HR professionals to understand how advanced their skills and expertise are in each HR category, so they can plan towards developing gaps and shortcomings. Rynes, Colbert and Brown (2002) also found a link between HR exercising practice and a firm's output and performance. It is therefore important that HR professionals continue to expand their knowledge and expertise in each HR practice. An HR professional needs to be able to look at their career, with integrity and honestly in order to make sure that the right development plan is in place for themselves, the employees and the business.
3.0 Elements of Group Dynamics
It is crucial that as an HR professional, you are able to manage yourself as well as others in the firm. If group dynamics are not handled properly, it will lead to conflict. However, conflict is natural and occurs in organisations. It is therefore important to know how to handle conflict. According to Tuckman and Jensen's Model of Group Development (1977), whenever you work in groups, you go through stages. Your level of performance will either increase or decrease as you go through each stage. In the forming stage, there is a mixture of excitement, anticipation and anxiety. It is at this stage where each person is trying to identify what other people are about. In the storming stage, the situation becomes more realistic and employees may experience elements of frustration, dissatisfaction as well as different forms of anxiety. In order to progress from this stage, it is important to manage each individual's strengths and weaknesses. During the norming stage, everyone understands their own role as well as the role of others. All members of the team are working more together, they are able to cope with work and the environment and everyone is accepting of each other. When employees reach the performing stage, it means that there is leadership, implementation and cohesiveness. Later on, a fifth stage was added called Adjourning. Adjourning takes place when the team dismantles which can bring about separation anxiety, crisis, dissatisfaction and negativity.
Belbin's nine important roles in a team are identified by Lehmann-Willenbrook, Beck and Kauffeld (2015). Three of the roles contribute to the thinking in the team: Monitor evaluator, plant and specialist. Three of the roles make up the action orientated people: the shaper, implementer and complete finisher and three roles are orientated towards people: co-ordinator, resource investigator and team worker. There are many ways to determine the roles that each employee plays such as through appraisals and team building exercises.
Teams are created in order to gain diverse knowledge and experience (Dechurch, Mesmer-Magnus and Doty, 2013). When group dynamics are not managed it will lead to decreased productivity and conflict. If and when conflict arises it is very important to deal with it. As an HR professional, it is important to act as a mediator, investigate and understand both sides of the conflict. The severity of the conflict will determine the solution to resolve the conflict. The ultimate goal is to reach a compromise and one way this can be achieved is through training workshops that are aimed at conflict resolution. Before group training can take place, it is important for individual coaching to take place amongst the conflicting parties. Individual coaching programs can be designed to help the individual understand their own motivation behind behaviour and then help them accept the other party's behaviour. This is a technique (individual coaching followed by group training) that I have used in my previous roles and has worked effectively. In less severe situations, a facilitated discussion between parties can take place to try and reach an agreement. The HR professional can act as a mediator to reach common grounds.
4.0 Project Management and problem-solving techniques
I recently took part in a project to develop the learning and development (LD) function at my previous company. There was no HR function so the role entailed HR practices too. The LD function had failed dismally in prior years and had a negative reputation amongst the firm. Another obstacle was that the LD function was a one-person team so I had to draw resources from other teams – who had their own day-to-day job to do. The biggest task was winning the trust and hearts of the employees. I needed to get them to believe in LD. The first thing that I set out to do was a root cause analysis. I needed to determine why LD/HR had failed previously, and how to prevent it from failing in the future. I put together a survey to all employees which asked the following questions:
1. What do I like about the company, and why?
2. What do I dislike about the company, and why?
3. What makes me stay, and why?
4. What will make me leave, and why?
5. What did LD previously do that was right, and why?
6. What did LD previously do that was wrong, and why?
7. How can LD improve, and why?
Before implementing the survey to staff members, I needed to call a meeting with the CEO, COO and managers in order to win them over and get their buy in. I needed their help in explaining the importance of the task to employees. I explained that the survey would be anonymous, with only the employees' department revealed so that we could see if there were themes based on departments. The survey set out to identify common issues employees had and how to solve them. I explained that the results of the survey would be made available verbally to all teams in a feedback session. Even suggestions that employees would bring up but not taken further would be mentioned. The reason for this being that it is important for all employees to feel like they are being heard. In the meeting with the CEO, COO and managers I also explained that if the survey is not done and I continue to implement LD and HR practices without the consent of the employees, it could lead to failure and perhaps increased employee turnover. In the meeting, I took suggestions from the managers on how they think the project could succeed. It was decided and agreed amongst everyone that prior to implementing the survey, I would hold a meeting with each manager and their team members to explain the survey, what it was, and the value it would add to the employees and the organisation.
Winning the managers over was easy with good communication methods and presentation skills. Winning the employees over was harder. They felt hard done by and felt like this was just another false promise. I had to use listening skills to actually hear, listen to and feedback issues employees had. I negotiated and compromised with the employees that they would not even have to put their department name on the survey to ensure even more anonymity. I also managed to convince the majority of employees to take part in the survey as I explained I was on probation and if I did not take positive action, I would be out of a job. The survey had a very high response rate. I identified the following major problems from the survey:
1. The company lacked a formal induction program
2. The employees were not trained on new products, or changes in products
3. Employees felt disconnected from the CEO and COO
I presented the themes/issues to the CEO, COO and managers in a feedback session, gave them my suggestions and also welcomed their suggestions. It was concluded that the following would be implemented:
Lack of induction program
Introduce two-week induction program which would consist of product training, systems training, soft skills training, activity books, assessments, HR induction (contract, policies, leave)
Lack of training on new products or changes in products
Introduce a global academy where once a month all employees are trained on a one of the products. Every three months employees would receive the calendar for the next three months. I had to allocate some training sessions to certain managers as they were specialists in a product and were the best people to deliver the training.
Disconnect from the CEO and COO
Once a month a different team would get to take part in an intimate breakfast with the CEO and COO. In the session, each employee would introduce themselves, the CEO and COO would tell the story of how they started the business, and then we would open the floor to questions from the employees. Employees really looked forward to these sessions.
The hardest, but most impactful solution to come up with was a once a month breakfast with the CEO and COO. Diary management would always be an issue, but I managed to compromise that the dates could be changed according to their travel plans. The most difficult part of the project to manage was allocating training dates to managers who were specialists in their fields. On top of their day-to-day jobs I needed their assistance in implementing training. The first thing I did was listen to their concerns and then I explained the importance of the task to get them on board. I had to back up my points with logic that benefited them. There was a lot of collaboration from employees and managers in completing and leading this project. when it came to persuading and negotiating solution or getting everyone on board, I had to remind myself to always listen, remain calm, clarify issues and always give feedback. Induction, training and activities with the CEO/COO would be evaluated every six months.
In terms of employee relations, my knowledge and skills are still emerging. This is relevant seeing as though I have moved from South Africa to the U.K. I specifically refer to policies and procedures as well as employee contracts. In previous roles, my focus and expertise were in learning and development, resource and talent planning and organisation design. I was not involved in the day to day creation and changes in contracts and policies and procedures. I only needed to know what employees' contracts stated and go through it with them and the same applied to policies and procedures. In my new role at Thimba Media, I need to advance my skills and knowledge in policies and procedures and employee contracts as I will be working with them day-to-day. Thimba Media is a start-up, online marketing organisation. This is the main reason for choosing to do a CIPD in Human Resource Management. I believe that it will equip me with the knowledge and skills to set the direction to learn more about policies, procedures, contract work amongst other aspects of HR that I lack the knowledge and skills in. My strengths lie in working with managers and staff to make sure that they are keeping in line with the organisation's values. I am very good at guiding employees, training them and supporting them and I have very strong communication skills. However, I need to develop my ability to monitor HR activity and make sure that it is relevant to employment law in the U.K. I also need to upskill my knowledge on policies and practices as well as learn how to keep latest documents, information and records in relevant to legislation. I am an on-the-job training type of learner therefore, we are going to hire an HR consultant for a few hours a month to mentor and coach me and make sure that I am doing things correctly. Furthermore, I will take the advice of Acacia Learning and do reading to research case studies from different organisations in the United Kingdom. The CIPD have provided fact sheets which I will go through as well as suggested books to read: Human Resource Practice and Introduction to HRM. I think it is important to gain information from a network of HR professionals in order to find out about cases and solutions in their organisations. The VAK model identifies three types of learners. The visual learner likes to use visual material such as colours to highlight themes. The auditory learner learns through discussions, tape recorders etc. The kinaesthetic learner learns through experimentation, creating tasks, movement etc (mindtools.com, 2017). I will therefore use practical activities to develop my professional plan. Please refer to Appendix 1 and 2 for more information.
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