Why clarifying stakeholder expectations matters to HR

Every organization talks about people being its most important asset. If they walk their talk, the HR ( Human Resources) function would also be the most important function. Why? because everybody assumes, HR -as the name suggests – is all about people.

The reality is that HR is nowhere secure about it’s presence in the scheme of things.

Clarifying stakeholder expectations is a good way to plot HR on the map.

Here is a Q&A format exploration of the same. Have taken HR in the public sector as an example – with three primary stakeholders – employees, officers and unions.

HR in A Public Sector Undertaking

What is the Fundamental expectation of all stakeholders?

Answer: Make it easy for us to perform our core task & validate the very reason why we exist.

Why do the stakeholders expect this from HR?

Answer: Human beings are the life-giving element of any enterprise. All capital,equipment & resources are deadwood unless human beings engineer sparks of performance by working together. HR as a function begins its work on this premise. This helps HR to focus on the human dimension : human nature & how it responds to the demands of work. This focus enables HR to help line managers in making the right choices in placing people, managing workflow, appraising & rewarding performance. If line managers make poor choices in these areas, they are guaranteed poor performance, no matter how perfectly everything else is in place. This point is so important that it deserves emphasis. You can get everything – capital, technology,plan,process – right, but if you mess up on the people choices,you won’t succeed.

HR helps create the organizational framework within which these people choices are made and played out. HR also advises & implements in executing these choices. All stakeholders expect HR to make it easy for them to perform their core task because they recognize HR’s role in creating and sustaining the basic organizational framework within which they all operate.

Why is it important for HR/organizational leaders to know stakeholders expectations?

Answer: HR helps create the organizational framework within which systems,structures & processes get the work done. But, inside the organization, there are only efforts. The results lie outside the organization. This stunning reality escapes most decision- makers. Whatever the organization produces & provides is used by people outside the organization. The organization exists purely to satisfy this outside want. This want changes with changing times. But the organizational framework is geared to maintaining status-quo, not creating the new. Ultimately, the organization has to change in order to stay relevant & perform. HR has a key role in maintaining the status-quo; afterall it helps create the framework that upholds the existing order. If change has to occur, HR has to work from inside-out to make it happen by helping organizational leaders recognize changing realities. Moving towards understanding stakeholder expectations is a great way to learn how they are making sense of a changing world. Knowing this, HR can then respond better in creating a new organizational framework – one within which it is easier to accept change & create the new.

Stakeholder expectations 

What do the employees expect from HR?

1) Employees – Basic : Make everybody honour the employment contract, especially the welfare provisions. Advanced : Reassure us of job security in a world of intense competition & increasing privatization.

What do the officers expect from HR?

2) Officers – Basic : Help me perform simply by upholding institutional rules on performance & accountability whenever anything is referred to you. Advanced : Equip me with contemporary management know-how & outside exposure. With that, I can be a change-leader.

What do the Unions expect from HR?

3) Unions – Basic : Continue to validate & support our institutionalised role as the champion of the working class. Advanced : Reassure us you won’t collaborate with outside forces of change that want to break the unions. Educate us on a mutual accommodation mindset so we can accept the minimum required change in return for our continued existence. We know we have to change. We have no clue how to go about it. Help us move away from zero-sum thinking. Make us change- partners.

These are putative answers. Assuming they are right, they point the way. The key is of course, not the answer; but the question : what do the stakeholders expect. And also, the other question answered here : why does it matter to know that.

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