Human resource management coaching

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Resourcing the HRM Manager to Advance the Profession

Last year, I shared this article with my cherished readers and HRM Colleagues as published in this column. This subject matter means a lot to me as it has a direct impact on how well an HRM Practitioner, especially in the early days of practice, can settle into the job a bit more comfortably rather than the try and error approach that most HRM practitioners begin their professions with.

Most of the problems and challenges HRM practitioners face have no solutions in textbooks and journals. And they probably would not have been taught in HRM School. So how do HR practitioners, especially the new practitioner, survive? As an HR practitioner, how did you get a hold on your new HR role especially as head of HR?

HR practitioners like many other professionals depend strongly on networking to get things done. They talk to friends, colleagues and former bosses about present challenges they may be facing for directions on how to handle a situation. HR professionals talk to each other all the time and especially to more experienced HR practitioners. The process of receiving or providing such direction constitutes HR Coaching. So in essence, every HR practitioner needs a coach at some point in their careers. Practically speaking, an HR practitioner is a Coach and at the same time benefits from coaching.

Role of the HR Manager:

The head of HR or what we all term HR Manager is actually the mover and shaker of all workers in an organization. Head of HR does not only hire every single worker within the organization except perhaps the CEO, but s/he also prepares and assists new employees to settle into their jobs in a process called onboarding. The head of HR tends all worker related problems and ensures that every worker is operating at their maximum or performance capacities. The work of an HR team or the head of HR directly affects productivity of workers in aggregate and the entire organization as a conglomerate.

The HR Manager is the operational hirer and firer of workers within an organization. This should normally make the HR Manager very powerful but unfortunately this is mostly not so. One may argue that the decision to hire and fire does not lie with the Head of HR. But surely, the professional advice and eventual communication of the decision to hire or fire always lies with the HR function.

The HR Manager is also a productivity enhancer. All business outfits and companies today are profit and productivity oriented. They fight for larger market share and leadership in their operations. And they rely on employees to churn out such results in profits and market leadership through hard and diligent work.

The HR Manager is expected to drive performance and hence productivity in workers to the greatest limits possible. However, the issue of enhanced productivity through employee motivation is based on several factors, some of which may be beyond the immediate remit of the HR Manager. For example, the use of substandard raw materials and Management’s adoption of a pay policy that is far below the market competition will definitely affect productivity. No matter how competent the HR Manager may be, the factors mentioned above will drive performance below expectation. However, the final responsibility of the Head of HR is the ability to advise and guide the CEO to adopt and implement people management strategies that enhance productivity.

The HR Manager acts as a Mediator and a double-edged diplomat. The role of an HR Manager involves constant mediation between management and employees. The HR Manager has no choice in this as his/her behaviour or decisions are scrutinized and analysed to confirm bias. The behaviour and decision of an HR manager is likely to be misconstrued as favourable to either the employer or employees, depending on which side is making the allegation.

HR Managers try to reconcile the expectations of Management and Employees or Employee Representatives. In this trying role, the HR team struggles to keep a balance in communicating efforts undertaken to ensure that parties’ expectations are partly or conclusively met. The fact is that expectations of Management and Employees are hardly the same because management is interested in more profits and productivity while employees are interested in more pay and benefits.

The HR Manager continuously assesses situations that are likely to result in conflict between the workers and management. And conflict aggravators such as the Unions in some cases deepen the woes in the HR role to ensuring a peaceful and cooperative workplace.

HR Manager acts as diplomat in seeking and projecting the interest of both workers and employers. In diplomacy, the interest sought is normally one sided. However, in the specific type of diplomacy involved in the HRM role, the HRM’s interests must seek to favour both Management and Employees hence the description double-edged diplomacy.

One of the major roles of the HR manager though is that of coaching both employees and line managers especially on relationship management issues in the workplace.  The HRM coaches line managers on how to supervise and manage relationships with subordinates.

Coaching the Human Resources Manager.

The HR management role is a daunting one. And for this and other reasons, the HR manager always needs a coach. This article focuses on HR coaching types and processes that support and aim at enhancing the effectiveness of HR practitioners in their jobs.

Coaching is the systematic, planned and direct guidance of a person or group of persons by a coach, to learn & develop specific skills that are applied in the workplace to meet clearly defined performance outcomes over a short period of time. A coach normally has one major focus – to get the candidate ‘to perfect the performance of a particular duty or skill. Generally, coaching targets the perfection of a particular or specific skill such as typing speed, presentation skill, communication and writing style, keyboard skills, driving skills, sales and marketing skills, team working etc.

In HR coaching, the coach focuses on honing or sharpening specific skills of an HR Executive or practitioner. Most skills in HR are learned on the job and must be acquired and perfected over time. Old HR practitioners will tell you they acquired their unique HR skills over decades of practice. However, with HR coaching, this may no longer be the case as the HR coach takes the candidate through specific modules towards the sharpening of these skills for enhanced effectiveness within a specified period of time.

The writer of this column is a coach who has assisted numerous HR practitioners to master their roles and functions over a decade. An HR coach is a professional in the first instance and a lifelong professional companion and friend who is always available to support, direct and guide appropriately at a fee. An HR Coach always has a brand which can be identified through a track record of professional practice at the highest level. The HR Coach is also a subject matter expert and a problem solver with a hands on approach to resolving workplace challenges with efficiency and effectiveness.

HR Coaching may be used to manage the day to day performance of specific kills identified as essential to effectively performing the HR role or function. The Coaching process is simple. It commences with the coach and candidate jointly setting agreed performance objectives. Then the Coach provides direction

and support to the candidate and guides the candidate towards the perfection of specific skills needed to attain or achieve the agreed performance objectives. With each passing day and month, performance is monitored, reviewed and evaluate periodically to ensure that the candidate is always on track to achieving the agreed targets or objectives.

Mentoring and Coaching are not very different and are sometimes used interchangeably. However, Mentoring is more long term while Coaching is short term in nature. The two, when used together ensures that the short term and immediate needs of a candidate are resolved while the longer term outcomes or performance expectations are achieved through mentoring. In the end, a candidate is expected to be ready to take over a higher HR role or position in the future.

Three Types of HR Coaching

Three types of HR coaching are identified in this article. They are Functional HR Coaching, Executive HR Coaching and Strategic HR Coaching. Functional HR coaching focuses on the sharpening of skills in specific and identified HR functional areas. The functional HR Coach would normally be a subject matter expert who guides an HR manager in the topical area of interest such as Performance Management, Recruitment, Compensation and Rewards Management, Salary Administration etc.

Executive Coaching involves a coaching professional working with a client to reach a specific goal in their professional development. In Executive HR coaching, an HR Coach works with an HR executive to meet professional objectives and targets as agreed. The strategic HR Coach on the other hand, works with an HR practitioner on specific assignments such as projects to resolve identified organisational problems related to the HR function. Strategic HR coaching is synonymous to Master HR coaching which constitutes the height of HR coaching.

Having talked about HR Coaches, it is important to examine whether we have HR coaches in Ghana at all. A number of HR practitioners are actually HR coaches without knowing. They receive calls from younger practitioners, colleagues and friends who they guide through the implementation of specific HR functions or strategy. This does not mean that everyone is and can be an HR Coach. Coaching is a profession that is learned and perfected. It comprises of a set of skills for the management, enhancement and evaluation of individual HR skills for improvement. Again, there are numerous retired HR practitioners who introduce themselves as HR consultants.

In actual fact, what they do is HR Coaching because they guide HR departments through various levels of people management challenges. HR Consulting or Consulting for that matter is a profession or trade pursued with specific skills and expertise which has been nurtured and honed over at least a decade. Consulting is the height of professional leaning skills or expertise acquired by the Consultant. Such expertise can be executed without flaws, supervising others to execute same and also teaching or imparting such knowledge to all levels of learners such as students, apprentices and interns, supervisors, managers & senior managers, executives, professionals and business leaders. Consultants are in essence experts who interact with other experts to shape and advance knowledge in the area of expertise. In short, a consultant may be a coach but a coach is not necessarily a Consultant.

The writer of this column is a coach who has assisted numerous HR practitioners to master their roles and functions over time. An HR coach is a professional in the first instance and a lifelong professional companion and friend who is always available to support, direct and guide appropriately at a fee. An HR Coach always has a brand which can be identified through a track record of professional practice at the highest level. The HR Coach is also a subject matter expert and a problem solver with a hands on approach to resolving workplace challenges with efficiency and effectiveness.

An HR coach is a professional who may be hired by an organization to assist and support the work of the Head of HR or the HR Manager in that organization. Most often however, individual HR practitioners hire the services of an HR Coach who works with them over a period of time to sharpen identified and agreed HR skills. This makes them more effective in their professional HR careers. Instead of depending on colleagues and friends who may also be facing same HR challenges, HR practitioners are better off working with an HR coach who is an expert in the field of HR and a trained and experienced coach.

So why are these helpful coaching tools and resources not being utilized? Well, perhaps because HR practitioners are yet to understand the positive impact of HR Coaching as a career development tool they can use to move up the corporate ladder faster as well as become more relevant to the organization.

So where do we go from here? How can Human Resource Practitioners have continuous professional support? HR Practitioners need to learn to measure their relative worth in their organization so as to influence decision making. HR practitioners need to engage more with HR coaches to sharpen skills in their weak areas of practice.

In the end, I believe HR practitioners will come to understand that their various successes depend to a large extent on taking affirmative action through the engagement of an HR coach. HR is the centre that binds and holds all departments together and I dare say that no organisation can run successfully without a competent HR manager in today’s competitive business and employment law environment. And competence in HR management takes too long, sometimes decades, to master. Let’s shorten the time. Let’s enhance competence as early as possible after school. I see HR Coaching as a necessary key to this end.

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