Role and Function of Personnel Departments and Ways to Improve Their Strategic Value to Organizations

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Evaluation of the role and function of personnel departments within organizations and discussion of ways to improve their strategic value to the organization.

Role of HR Departments
The HR model of the four HRM perspectives devised by Ulrich helps clarify the role of Personnel Departments (University of Sunderland 2004, p. 75).

Strategic Partner
As Strategic Partner the HR Department creates an appropriate organisational architecture with the target of achieving a match between factors such as culture and work processes and the organisation’s strategic goals. The focus is on results orientation and performance enhancement (University of Sunderland 2004, pp. 75, 78).

Administrative Expert
The role of Administrative Expert comprises professional practice, i.e. typical HR activities such as recruitment and training (University of Sunderland 2004, p. 75).

Employee Champion
As Employee Champion the Personnel Department manages the contribution of the organisation’s staff. This means that the HR Department tries to encourage higher employee commitment and full contribution. This can be achieved by acting as a partner, which means listening attentively and responding to employees and their needs, by providing them with adequate training activities, and by monitoring staff morale (University of Sunderland 2004, pp. 75, 79).

Change Agent
This role comprises management of change. This means that the Personnel Department encourages and initiates change in organisational culture to bring about a more appropriate culture and organisation to be able to achieve organisational aims such as business change, consistent employee commitment, new behaviours and competitiveness (University of Sunderland 2004, pp. 75, 79).

Role Evaluation
From the above-mentioned role description it becomes clear that the HR Department plays a vital part in an organisation by delivering valuable and essential services. It helps the organisation adapt to change, manages its most important assets, i.e. people and their knowledge, and has a decisive share in organisational development and creating competitive advantage. By doing so the HR Department helps to accomplish strategic goals. Thus, the company is very dependant on its HR Department because if it did not fulfil its role and activities the company could not be successful. Success largely depends on an organisation’s people and their performance. People issues and performance are influenced and determined to a very large extent by the Personnel Department. So you can say that the HR Department performs a multi-task role on which the whole organisation is dependent because without HR the organisation could not exist.

A critical point concerning Strategic Partner might be that the Personnel Department has to see to it that the whole range of HR practices and processes are aligned with business strategy so that the implementation of the overall strategy can be carried out successfully.

A problem with Administrative Expert could be that other departments might not be willing to accept advice by a department on the same hierarchical level. Hence, successful role and activity execution requires involvement and cooperation of line managers, sufficient HR authority, a high level of professionalism and communication, competencies and skills.

The Employee Champion role is very critical because it deals with the most important asset of an organisation, i.e. its employees. It also forms an important basis for the other three roles and, consequently, bad role execution will make the success of Strategic Partner, Administrative Expert, and Change Agent difficult. The Change Agent wants to bring about change in culture which entails a certain change in values as well. The role is a delicate role since values are subjective and it might be difficult to satisfy all stakeholders and thus create sustained economic value.

A general problematic aspect might be how to cope with all four...
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