Responsibility, yes — paperwork, no (Editorial)

By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/10/2001

For HR to play a strategic role in the boardroom, professionals must push some current responsibilities to their corporation’s managers.

Strategic HR encompasses issues surrounding organizational effectiveness, such as guiding change, creating a positive corporate culture and providing a return on the investment in human capital. To play this role effectively, time must be freed up by letting go of some people processes that have come to define HR — responsibilities such as recruitment, retention, orientation and performance appraisals. Line management is taking on greater roles in these areas, but HR must be careful to ensure that responsibilities come with the resources needed to do the job.

One thing managers throughout an organization don’t need is more paperwork.

Freeing up HR’s time shouldn’t mean dumping work on others. That approach to the redistribution of tasks can result in a number of responses that don’t help a corporation’s bottom line. Managers may become disgruntled, effecting their own morale and that of their staff. They may also become bogged down in paperwork that reduces their own ability to be effective. HR can’t improve its opportunities to add value to an organization by reducing the ability of managers to do the same.

There are two basic approaches to getting paperwork under control. First, do you really need it? Spurred on by the premise that everything must be accounted for, some companies can spend more time filing and reporting than they do creating value. This is an issue IT professionals are raising. Because they are in high demand they have clout, and the message they are sending is: “We’ll be creative — you do the paperwork.”

If organizations are willing to accept this attitude to ensure the employment of high-performers in high-tech, why does the same attitude not apply to other departments?

Surely all managers —from marketing to production — can benefit from more time for planning or inventiveness. Good paperwork will only get you so far in a competitive global market.

Of course, hate them as one may, paperwork and routine administrative tasks are facts of life, so even the most vigilant organization will only be able to dispense with a portion of its current processes. This leads to the second tack for reducing the load on management — administrative assistants.

While AAs play a vital role in supporting senior management, their ability to take on administrative tasks in all levels of an organization is unrealized in many firms. AAs can effectively be deployed throughout companies to help lower-level managers spend the time they need creating value and managing people. One AA can provide support to a pool of managers, allowing managers to focus on the core tasks they are educated and hired to perform. Isn’t that what organizational effectiveness is all about?

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