Truth has at last dawned on employers. The weary cliche: "Our people are our most important asset" is actually correct. Managements are having to accept the conclusive evidence that the most important factor affecting profits is the way in which employees are managed. The result? The corporate spotlight is focusing on the Human Resource Management (HRM) function.
The problem is that while growing numbers of employers want to adopt "best practice" in the management of their people, many are unsure exactly what that is. Fortunately, then, an initiative by Martin Leach, an independent publisher and one of the subjects of Charles Handy's new book The New Alchemists, has opened one way to measure best practice.
Having successfully launched the award-winning Human Resources magazine, Leach has devised and organised the HR Awards. He explains: "Four years ago, there were no quality awards for human resources at all. The Institute of Personnel and Development has `Personnel Manager of the Year', something done for an individual in an organisation, but there was nothing that measured the HR function. I felt that there was a gap in the market for something that pushed quality and excellence forward ... there was no way for human resource people to measure how well they were doing or get some kind of recognition."
Drawing on the experience of last year's HR Awards, Shaun Tyson, professor of human resource management, and Noeleen Doherty, senior research fellow at the Human Resource Research Centre, have described a framework for HR best practice in the Human Resource Excellence Report. The report defines the parameters of best practice at a strategic, operational and process level within an organisation.
The authors' central tenet is that there should be a "fit" between the HR strategy and the business strategy. "HRM should help to deliver organisational performance objectives through HR programmes and policies ... HR activities should be integrated with line management, and there should be integration within the policies to give coherence." But they do not advocate a single "ideal" approach.
The model they developed for the awards follows criteria found in both the Investors in People (IiP) programme and in the European Foundation for Quality Management's model for business excellence. At a strategic level, it proposes that HR strategy fit into the business or organisation strategy and be …