The two sides of HR (Editorial)

By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/21/2002

Some say that to be a valued strategic member of the executive team HR needs to abandon its “touchy-feely” employee bent in favour of a tough bottom-line focus. Others argue it is by being an employee advocate that HR can make a difference through setting the conditions for employee commitment and productivity.

The latter view is based on the fact that a demoralized workforce is a liability. Unhappy employees (with any chance of leaving — even for less money) equals less effort, entrepreneurship and attention to quality and more absenteeism and turnover. But by playing a role as an employee advocate, HR can cut through problems that cause high performers to shun an enterprise. HR’s role here is closely linked to organizational effectiveness, where weak (or even toxic) managers are not allowed free reign to damage worker commitment.

If none of the above makes a convincing argument against the fiscal savings of an exclusive adherence to bottom-line management that sees staff as replaceable cogs in the machine, or your workforce is too unemployable to work anywhere else, the human side of human capital management may have little impact on the thinking of your organization’s leaders. In such cases, employee advocacy is a negative concept.