Jim Bailey (FAHRILife), of recruitment firm Bailey, Shaw and Partners in Melbourne, talks measurable, strategic and responsible HR.
Q. Do you think a lot of Australian companies see HR as a commercial contributor to the bottom line or as more of a cost centre?
All functions are more measurable now and contribute to the business. The emphasis has increased on measures in the HR area.
Things like turnover, absences and leave to be taken have been around for a long time, but finally, attention is being paid to the real cost of hire – such as contractors, who have historically been off the books until now in most companies.
So I think HR has moved, and is moving, towards being more measurable and is being seen as more of a commercial contributor.
Q. Is it a good idea for some employees to operate outside their job description if they want to impress or directly affect a company’s bottom line?
No, I don’t think employees should have to think outside the box to deliver on business strategy. It should be part of their job and connected to the strategy.
At present, this doesn’t happen as much as it should. I’m sure that everyone thinks outside the box to some extent, but it’s certainly not a good idea to make it a requirement. It’s much better to attach jobs to strategy instead of having to deal with a rogue operator, so to speak.
Q. What are some of the factors to consider when people are trying to present business cases to encourage management buy-in?
I’ve said to people for many years that, if your boss wants you to do certain things in your job, you should get them clarified, or clarify them for your boss if he or she won’t. You should also write them down.
If your boss can clarify the three, four of five things they want from you, you need to deliver on them, tell them you’ve delivered it, and do that in writing.
At the same time, tell other people who might be interested. This might sound self-interested and self-serving, but I think it’s a requirement.
Q. Do you think the argument for commercial viability in HR is redundant in the face of values-led and culture-led HR?
No, I don’t. The reason is that the majority of HR people are either soft and fluffy or they play policeman. If they have chosen one of these roles, it is perhaps something they’ve built up for themselves.
They could also be neither commercial in terms of the bottom line, nor commercial in terms of strategy – they’re just doing a job.
So I think it’s actually more of a debate about HR roles in that the minority get on with the business, and the majority fill the types of role I just described.
Q. And is the majority ruling?
Perhaps, but I think the people who practise HR the way it ought to be practised get on with it and are making great strides on behalf of their businesses.
The people who are soft and fluffy probably have an edge, and because of this I think the HR fraternity has a lot to answer for.