Human Resources (HR) in the Developing Market – Are We Doing Enough to Educate our Staff?

12 April 2016
Bianca Valencia

by Bianca Valencia

Bianca Valencia is the Training Programme Services Manager at Birches Group.

Bianca Valencia, Training Programme Services Manager at Birches Group, regularly works with HR managers all over the world. In this blog she discusses the issues they face in their work, and the importance of ensuring HR staff are well trained.

These days HR managers are expected to deliver many tasks from payroll, to performance management, to staff motivation and most importantly, to compete with other employers that are out there by managing best practice in compensation and benefits. Working for Birches Group, I have had the pleasure to meet and work with many HR managers from all over the world, either personally or remotely, to discuss with them the many facets and issues surrounding their work in human resources. And often times, it is remarkable to see what little HR Managers actually know about managing pay, much so in developing and volatile markets. So for our staff who manage the biggest expense in the organisation – salaries – are we doing enough to educate them?

In the past two years, Birches Group has run several compensation and job classification training courses for NGO clients in different locations around the world. Each workshop runs for three days and cover a variety of topics such as managing staff compensation, creating salary structures, job description writing and purpose based job design. And while we’ve heard a variety of issues in pay policies from many organisations, one frustration seems to be a constant – HR Managers are not provided with enough know-how to actually manage compensation efficiently, much more be equipped to compete with the rest of the labour market. Whenever the question of “who are you as an organisation?” is asked, most don’t even know the answer simply because internal pay policies are not communicated clearly from the headquarters to their field offices, so knowing where to position themselves in the labour market becomes a very vague subject.

At the beginning of every workshop, I’ve noticed participants would usually come in with a fixed mindset of how HR works both internally in their own organisations and what they think works in their countries. But slowly, as we go through the three-day training course, participants begin to see inconsistencies with their current pay policies, identify what has not worked and what should be changed and re-evaluated.  It is notable, afterwards, how our participants come out with a new perspective in compensation management and job classification, where they finally feel empowered enough to challenge current outdated processes, as well as create spaces where new ideas and approaches can be promoted and encouraged. They all have shared their own experiences, raised questions and compared notes with one another. And in the end, participants always express how Birches Group training courses can really benefit HR practitioners in addressing their organisational needs.

But while these are all positive feedback – we often find ourselves wondering where the rest of these HR managers are, and why aren’t more of them signing up?

As consultants, we constantly try to convince organisations just how important it is for their HR staff to get educated in managing pay efficiently. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’ and in this case, the more knowledge we equip our HR managers with, not only will they bring in more clarity to managing pay, but also the management of staff in volatile markets (where frankly…anything can happen from a currency devaluation to a natural calamity) is done more effectively as well.

Although we have learned that there can be many reasons as to why there are not enough HR practitioners coming through the door, we have come to realise that we have to change the behavior within organisations for them to finally see that training for HR managers is an urgency in order for their functions to work properly. With all the challenges facing organisations, such as a sudden surge in recruiting capacity (similar to what we’re seeing with NGOs working in the refugee crisis), the need to create new jobs to address current organisational demands or just to remain competitive in the market in order to avoid turnover – having limited generic HR skills is simply not enough anymore. Instead, our HR managers deserve proper training because honestly, how can an organisation’s capacity function optimally if the very persons managing it are not receiving enough support to do it right?

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