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“There is always money to get”: HR expert 

Print Article13 February 2009 8:47am 

HR credibility is at “rock bottom”, and it’s up to HR managers to stand up and fight for recognition and funding, and to prove to executives that human resources is more than “hiring, firing and keeping us safe”, according to Upper Edge Learning’s head of strategic design, Milo-Arne Peady.

“HR managers have to drive the change,” Peady says.

Speaking at a breakfast forum in Sydney yesterday – with fellow panellists James Adonis of Team Leaders, and Yvette Gent of love* Recruitment – Peady said that HR leaders have to be “ready for battle”, and approach every boardroom meeting with a sales pitch.

“There’s always money to get,” she says, even in an economic crisis.

The crucial thing is to take the “fluffiness” out of HR.

HR managers, she says, need to change the “fluffy” culture through communication. They have to develop strategies and competency frameworks and communicate them to executives in the financial language they understand.

They must prove to executives that training programs, for instance, are more than just spending money. They’re about “the return on spending money”. The credibility of HR hinges on demonstrating return on investment, she says.

Cash-strapped creativity

Gent agrees with Peady, saying: “Stand up and fight and get your team close and rocking.”

She notes, however, that a current shortage of cash is a reality for many employers, and that HR managers need to be inventive in their efforts to improve staff morale and performance.

“You don’t have to have money to communicate and be creative,” she says.

At love* Recruitment, Gent says, managers regularly conduct “walk and talk” sessions in informal settings such as the Botanical Gardens, in which employees are encouraged to express their concerns. People are more willing to talk outside of the work environment, she says.

Employee feedback from the sessions is collated with the results of more formal and thorough questionnaires and communicated back to the company.

Employees feel that they are part of the decision-making process, she says, and employers, as a result, can expect to see a lift in morale and performance and the retention of “Grade A” workers.

Retention key

Retaining high performers is key to surviving the economic downturn and maintaining a company’s reputation and brand status, according to Adonis.

Firing workers when times are tough should always be the last resort, he says.

“How we treat employees now is how remaining employees will treat us a year from now.”

HR managers should explore all avenues and attempt to fix problems through training and development before letting high performers go, he says.

Peady agrees: “The world you’re in right now is not the world you’ll be in tomorrow.”

Reducing staff numbers is the obvious response to an economic downturn, she says, but there are often more prudent options.

The panellists suggest:

  • reducing weekly hours in consultation with employees. Managers could, for example, request certain employees to work four days a week instead of five;
  • offering employees the opportunity to take unpaid leave for study or travel, or to cut back workers’ hours to allow them to undertake part-time study;
  • reducing graduate recruit numbers instead of hastily slashing graduate programs altogether;
  • offering trainer training courses to cut back on long-term outsourced-education costs; and
  • communicating with and looking to staff and colleagues for solutions.”Solutions don’t have to come from leaders,” Peady says.


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