Saturday, 05 September 2015

HR is much more than a personnel department

What exactly is HR? Part 2

IN the previous HR Talk column, I discussed my views on the differences between HR and personnel.

To sum up, HR sets the parameters for how people should be managed by using legislation and accepted good practice as a framework to set the policies and procedures that govern the management of a workforce. The actual day-to-day and on-going management of the workforce, on the other hand, is undertaken by a combination of line managers and a personnel department.

My view is a very simplistic one (I’m a very simplistic person) and of course is not necessarily mirrored in every organisation. Some larger companies have a personnel department whose role includes the formation of policy and procedure; likewise, I have come across many HR departments who actually manage the workforce.

In my case, it is the day-to-day management of people that I have enjoyed throughout my career. Accordingly, I always ensured that my job title included the word ‘personnel’ – personnel manager; fleet personnel director – so that the distinction was clear; that I was managing people and not setting policies.

It is interesting therefore that, having set up my own consultancy to provide outsourced support to businesses in respect of their employees, my company is called Turnstone HR. All of a sudden I am not managing people directly but providing the legislative framework, advice and support to enable business owners to manage their employees within the law in order to protect and grow their businesses.

Turnstone also undertakes training and offers other techniques to assist clients in managing their staff but somehow Turnstone Personnel doesn’t sound right, neither does it absolutely fit our profile.

Over the past couple of years, Turnstone HR has worked for many different organisations – from those with as few as three employees up to PLCs with over a thousand staff. Whether HR or personnel, the larger companies tend to have their own in-house function.

Generally speaking, however, the smaller companies do not have their own HR/personnel function, although there is often a misconception at this level over what HR actually is.

Within the smaller companies, probably the most common comment that my Turnstone colleagues and I receive is: “We do our own HR in-house”. Exploring that statement further, we generally find that by HR, these businesses mean monitoring of sickness and holidays and the preparation of data for payroll.

In reality, HR is much more than this. It encompasses all aspects of people management support from recruitment, through dealing with grievances or disciplinary issues, performance appraisal and training to redundancy and dismissal – and everything people-related in between.

Clearly the day-to-day management of the staff in these companies is done by the business owners or by line managers but we have generally found that in many companies HR (in my strict definition) is not done very well, if at all. So many companies are operating without adequate policies and procedures. By adequate, I mean policies and procedures that follow, as a minimum, ACAS guidelines, or that are up to date in respect of the latest employment legislation.

If you would like support with any employment issues, please call Turnstone HR on 01229 615280 and speak to one of our HR Advisors or email us at – we’ll be happy to help you.


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