HR function not for pay cheque chasers

The human resources function is one of the central pillars of any modern company. The HR department can make or break an organisation depending on the policies and values it promotes among workers, as well as its vision for employees and company generally. All these and more are what will drive the firm to great heights, create a good working environment and foster the organisation’s growth and that of its workers. Denise Umunyana, the HR manager at Airtel Rwanda, tellsBusiness Times’ Ben Gasore, what it takes to make the HR function a success and facilitator of an organisation’s growth.
Denise Umunyana during the interview. She challenges HR people to be flexible and innovative. The New Times /  Ben Gasore
Denise Umunyana during the interview. She challenges HR people to be flexible and innovative. The New Times / Ben Gasore

The human resources function is one of the central pillars of any modern company.

The HR department can make or break an organisation depending on the policies and values it promotes among workers, as well as its vision for employees and company generally.

All these and more are what will drive the firm to great heights, create a good working environment and foster the organisation’s growth and that of its workers.

Denise Umunyana, the HR manager at Airtel Rwanda, tells Business Times’ Ben Gasore, what it takes to make the HR function a success and facilitator of an organisation’s growth.

What are some of your duties and responsibilities as an HR manager?

As a head of human resources of a telecom company, my duties and responsibilities are a bit more challenging. The HR department currently handles talent management and development, employee engagement, rewards and recognition, performance management and staff retention, among others. As the person on top, I co-ordinate all these activities in such a way that will make employees always look forward to coming back to work the following day.

Are there any trends you have noticed in the HR function lately? How do you react to them?

The HR function used to be an administration department for most organisations in Rwanda, just handling payroll. But this is changing and the function has been recognised as a key player in any modern company’s success. Though some firms are still stack in the old mentality. 

Currently, HR is recognised as a strategic business partner. Remember, human resources (workers) are the most important assets of an organisation and hence require special attention. The function needs a lot of planning and innovation to keep these assets motivated for the business to succeed.

To implement company HR policies successfully, an HR professional needs to understand the business they are in to be able to tailor all the above to its needs, vision and objectives. 

In this function, being simply a good HR person is not enough; one needs to know all the revenue driving initiatives of the company by learning and understanding the firm’s financials and supply chain processes.

It is important for any HR person worth the name to keep learning and adapting new things all the time.

Human resource management is widely viewed as a woman’s job; what is your comment on this?

I believe anyone can be a good HR person, be it a man or a woman. All it requires is passion for the trade. It is true that many women today occupy HR positions in many institutions, which could have caused that perception. 

Why should one join the profession?

The human resource function is versatile…Besides, having to meet and deal with various people, managing different departments enables one to learn all areas of the business. 

I find that attractive...quite interesting. The best thing about the HR job is the fact that it sort of ‘becomes different’ every day. There is no specific formula of managing people, so having to think about different ways of solving similar cases keeps your brain ‘racing’…that is very exciting for me.

What are some of the challenges you face on a regular basis, and how do you handle them?

Challenges are part of the job; so the best thing one can do is learn from them. I have learnt to accept that not everyone will be satisfied in an organisation. It is essential for an HR person to remain objective and not be judgmental. That’s how I handle my everyday HR challenges.

What are some of the blunders one can make that could cost them their job?

Confidentiality is vital in human resource management. We manage people’s personal files. So, leaking people’s personal information is the worst blunder an HR person can make. It can cost you a job and career.

What are the qualifications a human resource person should have?

Ideally, a degree in human resource management gives one basic fundamentals of understanding the field, but experience is key to efficiently manage the HR function. 

However, any management-related course with a specialisation in HR management would qualify one as a potential HR person. I am Bachelor of Commerce graduate, but I majored in human resource management. 

However, I have an MBA, with a specialisation in human resource management.

Apart from qualifications, one needs to be objective at all time, understanding and a great listener. Patience and availability are also important in this profession.

Any advice to HR and aspiring HR professions?

Don’t do HR just to earn a pay cheque. You must be passionate about the calling.

 

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