Zenith Bank CEO: Empower HR to deliver results

CEO and MD of Zenith Bank, Daniel Asiedu, has highlighted the need for an effective Human Resource practice to deliver business results.

Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Human Resources Management Practitioners, Ghana (IHRMP), he said he held the firm belief that whether an organization manufactures products or renders services, the people that run the organization are a critical component.

“After all, an organization is only as good as the people it hires and keeps. This then brings to light, the arduous task and the responsibility that lies on the shoulders of Human Resource Practitioners,” he said.

The IHRMP Annual General Meeting was held at the Accra International Conference Centre on the theme: “Empowering HR Practitioners in Delivering Business Results”.

Daniel Asiedu adds, “The Human Resource function has long been the backbone of every organization and it provides the stability that anchors the world of work. However, it is seen as the ‘support’ function merely confined to ‘paperwork’ and more concerned with procedural and welfare issues.

“According to Steve Wynn, a business magnate known for his involvement in the luxury casino and hotel industry in the United States of America, “Human Resources is not a thing we do. It is the thing that runs our business.”

He said to run sustainable businesses, there is the need for HR practitioners to be empowered.

The Zenith Bank CEO notes that the ever increasing need for companies to achieve set goals and objectives in line with their visions and missions, places an obligation on HR practitioners within organizations to first of all be conscious of their importance and the strategic role they play.

“HR Practitioners must improve themselves in their area of practice and be equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills for organizational effectiveness. They must begin to have a different outlook and a sense of appreciation for the crucial role they play in achieving the overall objectives of the organization. In other words, HR practitioners should think and act strategically,” he said.

Read below the rest of Mr Asiedu’s cutting-edge presentation to HR Practitioners at the IHRMP AGM.

In a recent study by ‘The Social Workplace’ in the United States, 64% of HR practitioners thought their practices were actively contributing to the organization, yet only 23% of Management Executives concurred with this. The statistics tell us that, HR practitioners should therefore come up with strategies that would impact positively on the overall objectives of the organization.

Furthermore, organizations of the future will be human capital asset driven, and those that leverage best practices in the HR discipline would lead the rest. The challenge will be for HR practitioners to prove themselves as true business partners by ensuring that organizations step up to that leadership role by implementing the best HR practices.

This involves building an infrastructure that makes the right information available to the right people, building an employer of choice environment, creating compensation structures that are competitive and enticing, finding innovative ways to retain talent and more. HR practitioners can only then become predictors of the future as they examine competencies the organization will require and conduct workforce planning and optimization.

According to statistics from HR Tech Europe 2014, 20-25% of employees are actively disengaged. Not only are many employees not engaging with their employers, around one in four are actively disengaged – in their words, these employees are actively reducing their value to the business.

In many organizations, “people cost” is one of the highest variable budget expense.  According to the “The Social Workplace”, between 35% and 60% of all variable costs of corporations are employee related.  With people being that high of an expense, HR practitioners have to take responsibility for improving workforce productivity.

Empowering the HR practitioner therefore, has become a focal area as it borders on how decision makers are able to adequately equip departments by first of all, establishing the kind of impact that needs to be created and then aiding employees with the requisite skills and tools needed to reach their greatest potential.

Being empowered as an HR practitioner is the new and effective technique for increasing productivity and creating value in an organization. It entails an increase in human resource knowledge, skills and motivation in achieving the vision and mission laid out for the organization in the most efficient and effective way.

What then must the leadership in organizations do to empower the HR Practitioners?  I would humbly propose what I call the “four-point agenda” culled from the article ‘A new mandate for human resources’, published in The Harvard Business Review, January 1998’ by Professor Dave Ulrich, a prominent strategic HR expert at the University Of Michigan School Of Business.

According to Ulrich, first and foremost, Management Executives have to demonstrate the belief that HR issues, soft as they might seem, are critical to the success of every business. As such, HR practitioners have to be involved in discussions where strategic decisions are made.

To further buttress the above mentioned point, statistics from HR Tech Europe 2014 reveal that 50% of people believe that HR goals must be in line with those of the organization to create better business alignment.

Secondly, Management Executives must define precise key deliverables for the Human Resource Departments and hold every HR practitioner accountable for results which will be bound by time.

Thirdly, Management Executives need to invest in new innovative HR practices in the same manner huge amounts are set aside towards improving Operational, Marketing and Financial Management functions of the business. 

Lastly, the most important thing Management Executives would have to do is to invest in the development of HR practitioners. They would have to ensure that skills development and training is not only limited to Finance, Marketing and Operations.

It is evident that the better and more efficient the HR function is, the more beneficial it is to the organization.  Equally, HR practitioners are indeed strategic partners who can make significant contributions to the bottom line. I therefore implore all HR practitioners here today, to be abreast with the changing trends in HR.

Let us constantly remember that as the business world around us changes, it is only empowered HR practitioners that can effectively embrace it and position the workforce so that change impacts positively on the organization.

Permit me to make a plea to every HR practitioner and stakeholders to support this great Institute in two main ways. First, by supporting the Institute’s goal of becoming a reputable professional body recognized both locally and internationally in advancing human resource management practice in Ghana and second, by contributing significantly towards the building of the Institute’s ultra-modern head quarters. Together let us help realize the objectives of this noble Institute.

Some members of IHRMP listening attentively to the Speaker at the AGM

Mr. Daniel Asiedu (5th left) posed with members of IHRMP at the AGM

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