Are HR professionals just administrators or can they also play a strategic role? It’s a question that has been hotly debated for many years, but many businesses thought they had found the answer when they adopted the so-called Ulrich model. This handed transactional work to staff in shared services centres, freeing up other members of the HR team to focus on higher value work as experts in recruitment, reward and other specialist areas or as business partners. At least that was was the theory.Dave Ulrich, the influential management guru who gave his name to this model, recently called on HR to increase its influence by championing digitisation and serving a range of stakeholders, not just employees. But he seemed to have no doubt that HR has become a key business player. “We used to talk about getting invited to the table. Now we have that access,” he said at the Love your HR conference.
Disconnect between HR and business
Others are not so sure that the HR profession has really moved on. Surveys regularly show that many business leaders still lack confidence in HR. In 2015, for example, 64% of CEOs surveyed by PwC felt that HR was not prepared for transformational change. The following year’s survey found that 60% of CEOs were rethinking their HR function, suggesting they still had doubts about the value HR was adding to their business.
So what’s at the root of this problem? Juha Huttunen, CEO of VibeCatch, points to a disconnect between HR and business, which came as a big surprise to him when he first came across it. “Business people in general don’t care about what HR does and many HR people aren’t interested in business goals,” he says.
Huttunen argues that employee engagement – the focus of many HR activities - will only interest business leaders if they see hard evidence of higher levels of engagement leading to improved productivity and bigger profits.
There was no easy way of measuring the link between engagement and productivity. But the VibeCatch employee survey tool not only measures engagement but also tells managers what they need to do to boost both engagement and productivity. Developed by Professor Marko Kesti of the University of Lapland and VibeCatch, part of the Rakettitiede group, the Quality of Work Life (QWL) survey is an online tool consisting of just 15 carefully designed questions. A few of these questions are sent to employees at frequent intervals, with the system then analysing the results automatically and generating information on what will improve engagement and productivity – and by how much.
Breaking out of the silo
The VibeCatch QWL survey has the potential to transform the role of HR, according to Huttunen. “We are trying to help both parties by giving business people tools that will help them increase profits, while giving HR the tools to create a better workplace and justify what they are doing to business people,” he says.
”Nobody has ever done anything like that before. It’s always been HR in their own silos talking about engagement and business people in their silos talking about numbers and profits.”
Using the VibeCatch QWL survey will not necessarily bring an HR leader any closer to occupying a corner office in the C-suite. But this new, scientific approach to taking the pulse of a workforce and using the results to increase productivity gives HR a chance to finally break out of its silo.
To find out more, contact VibeCatch on firstname.lastname@example.org