Full version Major Challenges That Face Human Resources Practitioners In The Australian Economy During 2007 And Analysis Of How Such Practitioners Can Contribute To Achieving A High Performance Workplace Culture.

Major Challenges That Face Human Resources Practitioners In The Australian Economy During 2007 And Analysis Of How Such Practitioners Can Contribute To Achieving A High Performance Workplace Culture.

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Human Resource Management is a vast field and there are infinite issues related to it, this paper will focus only on core issues faced by Human Resource Practitioners in Australia and thus analyse how such practitioners can contribute to achieve high performance workplace culture. It is indeed necessary to identify these challenges faced by Human Resource Practitioners in Australia in order to implement and develop effective HR practices & policies and thus enable the Human Resource Practitioners to achieve a high performance workplace culture which would be beneficial to the organization. The Human Resource Practitioners need to identify the external as well as internal influences that will impact the organization and formulate a strategy to overcome the influences or at least nullify them. (Stone, 2002). The major challenges that are being faced by Human Resource Practitioners in Australia are mainly due to the composition of the work force (De Cieri and Kramar, 2005). The Function of the Human Resource Manager is developing with the change in aggressive market environment and also emphasizing that Human Resource Management must play a more strategic role in the success of an organization

The major challenges that are being faced by the Human Resource Practitioners in the Australian economy are the ageing workforce; Trans gender issues in the workforce, cultural diversity, globalization and change in technology, skilled labour force shortage and efficiency. (Baker and McKenzie, 2002, De Cieri and Kramer, 2005) Human Resource Practitioners toughest challenge is to try and be flexible and adaptable in the corporate environment. (Kramar, 2002) These challenges have been faced by the Human Resource Practitioners not only during 2007 but for almost last decade. In the coming pages the paper will attempt to discuss these challenges in detail and will try to throw light on important issues.

Ageing workforce has been an ongoing problem for Human Resource Practitioners in Australia. It has been predicted that more than 80 percent of the projected growth in the labour force between 1998 and 2016 will be in the 45 years and over age group. (De Cieri and Kramar, 2005) The Australian workforce is ageing due to increased life expectance and lower level of fertility. Human Resource Practitioners as well as the employers would face the issues such as retirement planning, retaining of older workers to avoid skill obsolescence, control rising costs of benefits and sick leave. (De Cieri and Kramar, 2005)

The Australian workforce has become diverse due to gender representation. (De Cieri and Kramar, 2005). It has been noted that the participation of women in higher management is comparatively low to that of men. HR managers need to ensure unprejudiced treatment of the workers from fair sex and this itself is a challenge for any HR personnel in a male dominated society.

“As the Australian workforce has become culturally diverse, the issue of managing a multicultural workgroup has become important for those involved in the management of human resources”. (Cope and Kalantzis 1997; Cope, Pauwells, Slade, Brosnan and Kalantzis 1994; Karpin 1995;National Multicultural Advisory Council (NMAC) 1999; Fish and Wood 1997) Human Resource Practitioners have always found challenging to handle a multicultural workforce. Workers form different ethnic backgrounds have different beliefs. In an Australian organisation managers are from an Australian background and the primary workers are from different ethnic backgrounds. Hence a communication gap is created since the upbringing of these workers is different from that of the managers. Workers from different ethnic backgrounds have different work ethics. Also there is a possibility that they might be victims of Stereotyping, racism, bias etc. (Baker and McKenzie, 2002)

Cultural diversity is co-related with globalization. Global communications have been facilitated due to rapidly varying developments in new information technology (Ferris et. al., 1999). Due to globalization the world has become a much smaller place to live. With the help of globalisation Human Resource Management has attained an entirely new level of functioning. The workforce in many Australian organizations is global due to high rate of immigration. Human Resource Practitioners are constantly under the pressure to adapt to different strategies followed by different human resource practitioners across the world. Organizations are concerned only with faster and better results in a short span of time. Outsourcing is a classic example of globalisation. Human resource Practitioners now have to operate on a global level and they need to inculcate work ethics of different cultures which is beneficial to the organisation.

With the invention of new technology at a fast pace it has been difficult for the employees as well as the employers to adapt to this change of scenario in the workplace. With the invention of new softwares which help organizations to achieve higher productivity, the employees have to be trained to adapt to these changes. Older workers who are used to working with the old technology find it very difficult to adapt to the new technology. Thus productivity of these workers is affected. Thus here comes the challenge for HR practitioners to convince the older workers for taking training and to ensure providence of proper training and development programmes for such workers.

The Success of any organization depends largely on its skilled workforce. The right person for the right job is the mantra followed by most of the successful organizations. Its been noted that in the last decade Australia is facing a shortage of skilled labour force due to which the quality of work produced is also being affected and its not helping the organizations who strive to achieve an excellent reputation in them market. Professions such as nursing, teaching are facing a shortage of skilled labourers. (De Cieri and Kramar, 2005) Most of the new jobs that would be created in future would require high levels of reading and writing. HR Practitioners need to select people possessing the key skills required specifically for the job which is a big challenge in itself.

Skilled workforce is inter-related with efficiency. Efficient workforce is as necessary as skilled workforce. Skill and Efficiency are two sides of the same coin. Efficiency mainly contributes towards productivity. Organization is not made up of a single individual, it is made up of numerous people. Skill can be acquired after a period of time but efficiency can’t be acquired. The perfect example of skilled and efficient workforce can be seen in organization like J. P. Morgan. HR practitioners need to ensure that proper tools are provided to workers for increasing their skill efficiency as organizations can’t survive for a long period of time without knowledgeable, skilled and committed workforce. (Rooke and Keely, 1994).

The biggest and toughest challenge faced by Human resource Practitioners in Australia is flexibility. Flexibility largely depends on the eternal environment and the workforce. Human Resource Practitioners need to be flexible about the working hours which are very attractive to older workers as well as female employees. By Practising flexibility Human Resource Practitioners would directly resolve the issues of Ageing and participation of female workforce. (Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 2007)

The above mentioned issues are the major factors which are unconducive to effective Human Resource Management in Australia. Human Resource Practitioners need to have a work around for these issues or else it would hamper the growth of business organizations in Australia. These issues could be tackled by long term strategies. The common factor about the above mentioned issues is that they are inter-related.

The population of Australia is ageing as per Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003. Hence Human Resource Practitioners need to work on a long term strategy by offering older workers work timing flexibility (Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 2007) and also teaming them up with younger recruits so that they could benefit in experience from the older workers which could be termed as skill transfer. (Tabakoff and Skeffington, 2000) This indirectly would take care of flexibility, skilled workforce, ageing, skill shortage. By attracting and retaining older workers Human resource Practitioners are also contributing towards the preservation of their pride and self esteem (Leonard 1999).

Gender issues in the workforce have always got prominence in public speeches, assembly and politics. By giving equal opportunity to female workers, Human Resource Practitioners would be fulfilling its social responsibility towards the community. Also women would be able to contribute something towards the family’s monetary needs. Till today our society is considered to be male dominated society, thus by giving opportunity to females, Human Resource Practitioners would help in defying the age old saying that “Man is hunter while woman is the care taker if the household”.

Human Resource Practitioners generally find it difficult to manage a culturally diverse workforce. Culturally diverse workforce could be handled by introducing cultural awareness, training regarding the differences of various cultures within the workplace also Practitioners need to make sure that all relevant policies and procedures are translated into other languages and translators are present for important meetings. Human Resource Practitioners need to encourage employees to raise issues as early as possible and see to it that employees have access to training so that they are able to improve and maintain their skills and knowledge. (Baker and McKenzie, 2002)

Subjective evidence suggests that the most admired and respected companies in the world have not only created multinational companies (MNCs), but they have created organisations with workforce and corporate cultures that reflect the characteristics of the global markets in which they operate. Some of the examples of these companies are Coca-Cola, Toyota Motors, Nokia and Hewlett-Packard. (De Cieri and Kramar, 2005) Due to globalisation Human Resource Practitioners have to operate on a global level. The workforce of organisations would have to compete globally adapting different work ethics, culture, style etc. Australian Organizations to be competitive in world economy would have to put a great effort in selecting and retaining talented employees, employee training and development and dismantle traditional bureaucratic structures that limit employees’ ability to be innovative and creative.

Organisations would have to develop proper training strategy for their workers so that the workforce is able to adapt the new technology. Human Resource Practitioners need to play a strategic role in the training and development of employees’. Shortage of skilled workforce could also be tackled by creating back-ups or teaming up young recruits with older employees so that the skill gap which would be created in future could be taken care off.

Human Resource Practitioner needs to become the modifying agent for creating a high-performance culture. Under this scenario, the Human Resource programme is crafted to build organisational capability and to drive business performance leading to results. The result of this approach is a new way of looking at Human Resource programming and people practices. Australian Organisations that have adopted this approach have adopted balanced scorecards or other metrics to assure that practitioners are more involved in performance management and accountable for productivity (Delery and Doty, 1996). Human Resource Practitioners need to provide the tools that focus on measuring and rewarding the desired outcomes. There should be rewards for high levels of performance, and consequences if results are not delivered. Human Resource takes on a high impact role in the organisation, because it is viewed as the driver of the high-performance culture and has a visible impact on overall capability of the people in the organisation. HR’s primary focus in this environment is talent and leadership acquisition and development. Clear expectations should be set for excellence for the workforce and a consistency in how the workforce functions and takes responsibility for results that surpasses all lines of business (Rooke and Keely, 1994). Human Resource Practitioners need to participate at all levels, focusing on business priorities, rather than just people issues. When this is working, the entire enterprise sees the importance of people and leadership and Human Resource Practitioners become contributors at a much higher level and with much more influence.

Thus from the above discussion we can conclude that there is no text book answer for these challenges. There is no such thing which can be termed as “Best Practices” in HR (Capelli and Crocker-Hefter, 1996). It has been noted that organizations do gain competitive advantage and sustainability through the way they manage people (Pfeiffer and Veiga, 1999). HR Practitioners need to formulate policies and implement them strategically in order to achieve a high performance workplace culture and also the practices with the help of long-term strategies which would enable Australian organizations to compete in the global market place, generate employee commitment and retention over the long-term. The problems faced by HR practitioners don’t have any overnight solutions, even short term strategies would not be able to give the desired result.


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