Monday, February 15, 2010

Setting up an HR Department – Challenges and Solutions


The HR department doesn't make anything or sell anything but it helps the organization to produce or sell things by improving its’ employees performance and by smoothing the trail of success. As companies grow, they need to establish an HR department. The research shows that firms that are highly active in Human Resource Management produce better results.

“Unless, not fully sentient with the significant role of the HR; an organization can not attain evolution through its human capital.”

Public sector of Pakistan have “personnel department” that is responsible for staffing, office management and regulation. On the other hand private sector in Pakistan has accepted the HR as a strategic partner. In this sector, especially in the Multinational companies HR is enjoying a seat at company’s corporate table. They also have a very impressive impact on our local companies and that’s why HR is emerging as a separate function in local organizations of Pakistan as well.

Setting up an HR department in Pakistan is a big challenge for an HR person and a dilemma at the same time. He/She spends a great deal of time in shaping and establishing an HR department so that it becomes a laser- like focus on finding the new talent, retaining the key resources and achieving the company’s key goals. Still, with all this in focus an HR person may be overlooking some of the serious and critical challenges that influence his/her performance. Based on my professional experience I would like to share top three critical challenges an HR person has to countenance in establishing an HR department in Pakistan’s local companies.

Challenge One – Management Expectations


To cope with the management expectation is the biggest challenge for an HR professional. When management personnel of any organization hire an HR person to start the HR department they have very high expectations in their mind from it. However these expectations can be radically varied from management to management. One may see an HR person as a recruiter; another may see as a problem solver, while a third may see him or her as an overall generalist. But in all cases management pressurizes the HR person to show the quick results, to hire resources as soon as possible, to improve office timing in a week only and to prepare and implement all policies in two weeks.

There is also a management perception in the current Pakistani corporate culture that the HR is the solution to all the problems. That’s why top management tries to forward every problem to HR whether it has a link with HR or not. Office renovation is not up to the mark, problem comes to the HR. Security cameras are not working, and problem comes to the HR. It is really a big challenge to convince the people at the top that these problems are out of the HR scope and to realize them that their expectations are out of the line with reality.
The best solution to this challenge is to judge the management expectation before starting the work. Have a meeting with the top management to clearly discuss the current issues and the changes that management is expecting from the HR department. Also try to understand the attitude of the management towards HR that usually sets the tone and decides the limit of power; authority and control an HR department can exercise. Then list down the key issues and management expectation and do start working on that list. After establishing the department, send the weekly tasks report to management and schedule a fortnightly meeting to update and to discuss the issues. Try to be the strategic partner of the company by providing crucial input into major business transactions such as restructuring and mergers etc and to get close to the industry and develop a knowledge and understanding of the organization’s goals and strategy.

Challenge Two – Employees’ Perception

Another major challenge facing HR person in the establishment of HR department is the employees’ poor perception about the HR department. Due to the management expectations and pressure to show quick results the HR person has to be strict and tough. But unfortunately, due to this allegiance, HR person has been seen as “puppet of management” by the employees.

It is always a daunting task to change deep seated employees’ perceptions. But the best solution to this challenge is to have a meeting with the employees individually, to ask them what their concerns are and to capture their perception about HR. HR should be aware that the key to winning the hearts and minds of the employees is to listen to their problems and to recognize their work in the company. So, be proactive in arranging a wide range of activities to recognize their work, to enhance their satisfaction and motivation, i.e. employee of the year, performance bonus, family dinner, and Umrah tickets. Never punish the employees. Always try to find out the cause behind their acts and to educate them and to provide solutions of their problems. HR should always be flexible, cooperative, and supportive; and have to play the role of a mentor and a counselor.

Challenge Three – Policy Implementation

Another big challenge is policy implementation “the process of converting intention into action”. Policies are the rhythm of a corporate life but unfortunately, the implementation process “takes a considerable time to acceptance”. In local organizations of Pakistan, many long-service employees enjoy the status quo that’s why they create hurdles in implementation of the new policies and procedures. And they create a hostile environment for a newly build HR department as well.


The best solution to this challenge is to take the leadership in confidence. Before making any policy, ask their recommendations. Draft the policies based on these recommendations and then implement them. Implementation depends largely on solid leadership of the organization; top level management as policy sponsors, mid-level managers and supervisors as implementers. Try to engage mid level managers and supervisor for policy implementation and monitoring. They are usually the first to have contact with the team and are often the most influential in the company. They know the attitude and impressions of their team better than HR person.

There are many challenges HR personnel of newly build HR departments are facing in Pakistan. However, they can defeat these challenges only by shifting their gears and to begin playing a new role by acquiring and demonstrating the new competencies.

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