Following major changes in operations it was decided

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Following major changes in operations, it was decided by senior management that the role of the fire service’s HR function was to provide high-level, strategic advice from advisers who could work closely with them, backed up by specialists. In other words, a business partner model. So the brigade began to recruit business partners – placing a special emphasis on those with expertise in employee relations – and specialists to cover areas such
Part 1The Practice of Human Resource Management38The roles of HR professionalsThe roles of HR professionals vary widely accord-ing to the extent to which they are generalist (eg HR director, HR manager, business partner), or specialist (eg head of learning and development, head of talent management, head of reward), the level at which they work (strategic, executive or administrative) the needs of the organization, the view of senior management about their contribution, the context within which they work and their own capabilities. They can act as strategists, business partners, inno-vators, change agents, internal consultants, change agents, facilitators and coaches. Tyson and Fell (1986: 7) believed that they were ‘specialists in managing the employment relationship’. The com-petencies required by the role are demanding.The overall roleHR professionals can play a proactive role, contribut-ing to the formulation of corporate strategy, devel-oping integrated HR strategies and volunteering guidance on matters related to upholding core values and ethical principles. They are involved in business issues and working with line managers to deliver performance targets but they are also concerned with people issues. They help to improve organizational capability – the capacity of the organization to perform effectively and thus reach its goals. They can also be regarded as facilitators; in the words of Tyson and Fell (1986: 65): ‘Their work allows other managerial work to happen.’The ‘Next Generation’ research conducted by the CIPD in 2010 emphasized the need for HR professionals to be ‘insight-led’. Commenting on the outcomes of the research, Sears (2011: 35) reported that: ‘We found that demonstrating a sense of purpose that spans the whole pyramid demands a wide-awake HR function, with a deep under-standing of business, contextual and organizational factors.’Research conducted by Hoque and Noon (2001: 19) established that: ‘The growing number of spe-cialists using the HR title are well qualified, are more likely to be involved in strategic decision-making processes and are most likely to be found in workplaces within which sophisticated methods and techniques have been adopted.’ However, in some situations they play a mainly reactive and transactional role. They spend much of their time doing what they are told or asked to do, responding to requests for services or advice. They provide the administrative systems required by management.

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