Is the human as a resource merely a factor of production or a resource that could be effectively managed to ensure competitive advantage? A question that was answered decades back by the likes of Elton Mayor, Ouchi, Herzberg and a few others who understood human social needs and drive to achieve and be regarded as useful hence ensuring its transition from Personnel Management a form of control management function to Human Resource Management a support and auxiliary function that ensures the growth and development of employees.
In a country where unemployment dangles on the fingers of graduates like a wedding ring, and employers have a higher bargaining power in the labour market, one begins to question the validity of Human Resource Management systems in various institutions especially privately owned companies, as employees are exploited yet underutilized. Here in Ghana HR is merely a front and a veil masking the horrors that lies beneath, as employers have a” press 1 to fire employee system”, paternalistic employer-employee relations, rather bias performance and reward systems, training and development programmes that are not bridging knowledge and skill gaps, marred work life balance systems, organisational cultures that stifles innovation and disregards autonomy, employees feeling alienated as a result of unclear job descriptions, poor working conditions etc. These were the very things that defaced Personnel Management and led to the rebirth of a system that esteemed employee well-being and development. What could be the root cause of this rather appalling behaviour? Is it the higher unemployment rates or perhaps a misinterpretation of the ideals that define Human Resource Management? Whichever the cause, employees deserve much better working conditions not just fat salaries but the peace of mind that comes with job satisfaction.
The HR in Ghana, a mirror reflection of Personnel Management continues to cost most employers as productivity levels dwindle and employee attrition rates skyrocket yet they look above their heads for solutions whiles what they seek sits on their noses. A happy and satisfied employee is a productive one, unfortunately most companies invest much time and resources on value sapping activities such as maintenance and crisis management rather than activities that add value such as continuous improvement and transformational changes that involves radical implementation of changes that ensure sustainability in a rather turbulent business environment. A company will rather install card slots to monitor employee punctuality or cameras to monitor and supervise employees yet will neglect training and developments programmes that improve employee skills and knowledge, this is just an example, there are a lot more instances where organisations invest more on value sapping activities rather than the ones that add value. As a country do we even have Trade Unions or regulatory bodies that ensure the welfare of employees? If we do how effective or active are these bodies? What does the labour act say about unfair dismissals and other work related issues? Are employees aware of these laws? These questions need to be addressed if employees are to feel comfortable and enthused about their jobs. HR is not just about having a fancy office and department assigned to the appraising of employee performance, people planning and resourcing, development of pay structures, training and development and fat HR handbooks with good policies which are rather like library books siting on dusty shelves, it moves a step further into: How do companies gain employee commitment and loyalty? Do companies have good retention strategies? Are the goals of the organisation aligned to that of the employees individual goals? How do you deal with employee grievances? How is the relationship between you and your employees like? Do employee views count when decisions are being made? Is autonomy and discretion encouraged? Do employees see your reward systems as fair? These are questions yet important elements that ensure effective workable HR systems.
The employer worker subordination approach to Human Resource Management should be drowned and thrown overboard and a more consultative approach should be embraced if companies yearn to evolve and grow. A well-managed and utilized work force not only ensures higher productivity levels but a more serene atmosphere where employees could utilize their skills and knowledge to ensure a competitive edge. It’s rather unfortunate to know that 7 out of 10 Ghanaians practically hate their jobs as a result of bad management and leadership practices. Companies can do better by properly managing the human as a resource and not just a factor of production.