Managing HR during uncertain times

The world is a “Global Village” and no one is insulated from the ripples in the Global Economy. It is often said that “if America sneezes, the rest of the world will catch a cold”. Much of   HR professionals in the APAC & Middle East region must be aligned to the Global economy and keep their eyes and ears open to whats happening around Global Economies. Offcourse there will be more focus on the new and emerging economies viz. BRIC countries and HR will have to play a major role in these economies to help capitalize the potential and global interests being shown. An international exposure to get an international perspective will help these HR professionals. Keeping in constant touch with their counterparts in other countries will help. Understanding the diversity and culture in other countries is a must to be successful in this era.
Its often said, that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Will HR turn out be tough.
Well HR plays a pivotal role in helping companies cope up with the downturn. While the top line is stagnant or moving downwards, companies have started tightening their belt and reducing their bottomline or Operating Expenditure. It is here that HR plays a pivotal role in helping containing costs of operations. HR needs to understand the Business dynamics, the Business levers that drive Profit & Loss and initiate strategies in line with the resilience program. We can no longer feign ignorance about business. HR professionals need to have “business acumen” and actively participate in business strategies.
I think this time around HR professionals are more experienced to manage such downturns. The challenge would be how do we predict such downturns and proactively initiate HR programs to minimize such shocks in future. Now that it is well known that the Global Economy goes thro a business cycle lasting about 8-10yrs (highs & lows), we need to be better prepared for the future downturns.
Dave Ulrich has defined the role of HR professionals :
             Strategic Business partner
             Employee Champion
             Expert Administrator
             Change Agent
HR professionals will have to don all these coats and effectively play these roles in any situations.
HR activities could be broadly divided into two:
             Transactional
             Strategic
We will have to master the Transactional activities, bring in greater efficiency, speed of delivery, reliability and at a lower cost to ultimately drive Employee Delight and enable Business to meet its stated objectives. This is key to survival during down turn.
Strategic activities are key to driving competitive advantage. As CK Prahalad and Gary Hamel have said, that “its people who fuel the journey of success”, they are the biggest competitive advantage any company will have. It is therefore imperative that we continue to focus on developing the competency of our people and build Organisational Capabilities that will not only sustain competition but will also help to beat Competition.

I believe that there is an opportunity in every calamity and its up to our hands to seize this opportunity and showcase the true value that HR can add to business and help organizations surmount any challenge.
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