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Dear Workforce In Which Direction Should I Take This Company

Several suggestions as to how an HR executive at a growing company can prove valuable.
October 22, 2000
Related Topics: Growth, HR Services and Administration, Strategic Planning, Dear Workforce

Dear Workforce:

I am an HR Manager for a small (65 mostly non-exempt employees) sheet metalfabricating company. This position was created one year ago and I havefunctioned in the position since that time. I came into this position from stategovernment and had no prior experience in manufacturing.

Therefore my questions/quandaries are: Is this company large to enough tohave an HR Dept? What direction should I take this company? It’s family owned(good ole boy environment) so most times HR decisions are not made until theowner concurs. Therefore, I feel "boxed in."

I took this position to gain more experience in HR from a managementperspective. Could you please provide some professional advice?

-- Dennis W.

A Dear Dennis:

Dennis, breaking through the (corporate) barrier where the perception of HRsurpasses that of an administrative function requires perseverance andforesight, particularly in a traditional manufacturing environment. However, thefact that the company has deemed it beneficial to have an official HumanResources function in a small organization is great news.

Yes, the organization is large enough to have an HR department. While thereare standard forms of measurement in defining the ratio of HR support for sizesof population, there are also other parameters that bear equal amounts of weight-- such as activity within the employee population, representation of thepopulation to executive management, and forecast of business growth. While thereare standard ratios, every company has its own special needs and requirements.

How do you become a business partner and minimize the administrativeperception of the function? Provide data on categories that impact the business.For example:

  • What is the percentage of the workforce that has received training in thepast six to 12 months that would enhance their job performance?
  • What are the statistics of sick time taken during a fiscal quarter? Thishas an impact on revenue.
  • What are the attrition statistics?
  • What are the statistics relative to hiring trends?
  • What are the top three employee relations issues and how are you and themanagement team going to address these?

Present your solution with the problem. When a decision needs to be made,provide the executive making the decision your perspective and the supportingrationale. Over time, there will be an increased awareness of the impact the HRprofessional has on the business and corporate trust. Provide anecdotalreferences for specific issues that come up through networking with HRprofessionals in the same industry. Present to the team what your top threeinitiatives are for the coming year and associated timeframes. Provide them withupdates on those goals and work to meet them.

Find an executive on the team who can serve as your mentor. Hold impromptu(or scheduled if that is his/her preference) discussions on certain issues andprovide your insight -- this person may help you see things from a more globalor corporate perspective. This exercise will further your development and giveyou better insight/awareness of the business.

Remember to always stay close to the pulse of the organization -- theemployees. They will trust you and know that you are keeping the healthy balanceof employee and company. Limit the amount of written or phone correspondence tothe management team; instead, walk to their office for a discussion about theissue at hand. All of this lends itself to the business partner model you wantto create and foster in your new environment.

SOURCE: Chief People Officer Sandy Visser, an HRinfrastructure consultant focusing on compensation programs, benefits analyses,employee communications, career progression and development, as well as mergersand acquisition activities for Benchmark HR Solutions Inc., a Salem, N.H.-basedrecruitment and employee retention services provider for high-growth, start-uptechnology companies.

E-mail your Dear Workforce questions to Online Editor Todd Raphael at,along with your name, title, organization and location. Unless you stateotherwise, your identifying information may be used on andin Workforce magazine. We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to answerevery question.


 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

If you have any questions or concerns about, please email or call 312-676-9900.

The Workforce fax number is 312-676-9901.

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