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HR – A Time for Leadership, Courage and Innovation – Let’s Be Having You

May 19, 2016

By Donie Wiley

When asked, I have always been proud to describe myself as a human resources professional, I say this even though it has been close to 11 years since I formally worked in the function.

 

However, this self-applied moniker is now coming under pressure when I look at the increasing list of poor people management and staff leadership positions that the function presides over.

 

Let me say, I accept I may not be aiming my ire and disenchantment at the right target.  It may well be that HR is ‘following orders from upstairs’ but if is, it then raises the question about what the function stands for, has responsibility for and is it a partner of equal at the top table – an altogether different topic for a different day.

 

So what is really bugging me?  It’s one of the most insidious and mean minded initiatives to emerge since the economic crisis arose – the wholesale implementation of zero hours contracts.  I am especially concerned at the behaviour of the retail, hospitality and tourist industries who are taking particular and perverse advantage of (mostly) young employees as well as many international workers and generally those who are looking to getting a start in some sort of a meaningful work scenario.

 

I find it amazing that these successful businesses, many of them large and complex, cannot work out and plan around their cycles of customer demand that arise either seasonally or related to special events within their enterprises.  It is shameful with all the advances and capability around analysis and big data that forecasting and planning models cannot deal with this matter.  I say simply it’s not that they can’t it’s that they don’t want to, because to do so would involve commitment, increased compliance and possible cost and they are not prepared to make that investment.

 

I find it especially embarrassing as an HR educator that the technical and academic capability that exists in this area is not being utilised – for example why are HR people not utilising annualised hours contracts?  These allow for the peaks and valleys that can arise in terms of demand for goods and services be managed with an organisation while showing commitment, respect and fairness towards employees who work to serve the most important person in the businesses – the customer.

 

Ironically, such an approach, if it were lead out by a reward professional, would NOT lead to any additional staff cost for the company and would bring significant additional benefits for the organisation in terms of staff loyalty, experience, etc..

 

We, in Ireland, often laud ourselves as the best small county to do business in, such sharp practice as zero hours contracts only diminish and reduce that lofty position we claim.  We can’t operate a two tier workforce system by allowing a precariat class to develop where we see our people – native and international – at being at the core of our differentiation.

 

We previously followed New Zealand on a most important issue – the inclusion of women in the democratic process – we now need to follow their plan to outlaw zero hours contracts.

 

We have to stand for what is right in terms of safeguarding the long term future of our organisations especially around relationships with customers and our people.

 

Donie Wiley is Founder and MD of In Pursuit if Potential (ipopnow.ie) an advisory company focused on individual and team development through a journey of authentic leadership.  The matter discussed here does not refer to any existing or previous organisations I have worked for or been associated with.

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