Having spent the initial years of my hotel career in various hotel operational positions (front office clerk/ front desk agent/ front desk executive, room maid/room attendant, restaurant cashier, food and beverage service assistant, cook, restaurant hostess and waitress), I tend to have a soft heart for personnel of similar status. However, I have also held manager -trainer-consultant positions over many more years, managing hotel investments including a training organization; and for managers and hotel owners who are striving to excel in the hotel industry in Ghana (irrespective of size and star rating), I doff my hat.
In this conversation we discuss the role of Human Resource (HR) professionals and appreciate their inputs during the challenging times (covid-19 pandemic era) we find ourselves in, when difficult decisions are being made by hotel owners and managers, resulting in anxieties among the workforce.
It is with the above background that I found myself keenly reading a featured article “The impact of COVID – 19 on employment contracts” in Goldstreet Business written by our Guest today, Ms. Belinda Enyonam Dzokoto, an HR practitioner.
HOST: Welcome Ms. Dzokoto. Thank you for honoring this invitation. Almost everybody has been very badly hit by this pandemic. I understand the hospitality sector has been the hardest hit. Consequently, a large number of hotels have shut down, there is reduction of workforce and reduction of salaries; there are layoffs and terminations, all in an effort by hotels to survive.
I invited you as a non-hotel HR practitioner to ensure I avoid bias in our discussion. This may be a difficult discussion but you are here to educate us. Welcome again.
GUEST: Thank you very much.
HOST: Kindly explain the role of an HR particularly in the hotel industry in Ghana where HRs are recently making their way to. If there is anything like a typical function for HRs, kindly clarify it.
GUEST: All organizations are generally laid out in departments/functions and every department has specific roles to play. The HR Department is one of the standing departments across all industries and organizations. Even within the HR function itself, there are a lot of roles, segregations and specializations.
Generally, across the globe, the Human Resource Function is expected to perform some specific core duties which span from Recruitment through to Termination or otherwise Retirement i.e. (intake to exit). The generic/guiding roles of an HR irrespective of industry or organization include:
- Recruitment and Selection (Staffing)
- Training and Development
- Performance Management
- Career Progressions
- Compensation Management
- Employee and Labor Relations
- Health and Safety
The performance of these roles may be categorized into administration, day-to- day management of staff and strategic functions. Within these core functions, a variety of activities are generated based on the specific demands and dynamics of an industry or organization.
We must take note that, the Human Resource Practitioner (HR) is the executor of laid down organization rules and regulations (policies), therefore the HR must ensure that there are policies covering all these core roles. This implies that, the role of the HR is not based on discretion. It is also worth noting that such organization policies are not generated by the HR solely but in stakeholder consultations.
It is expected of the HR to bring to the attention of stakeholders the absence of any guidelines (policies). He/she could also develop frame works for some required guidelines but such needs the contribution and acceptance of all stakeholders such as the Board of Directors, Management and the Labor Union in cases where employees are unionized.
It is very important for us to also note that, any employee in a supervisory role also provides HR duties to their subordinates under the supervision of the HR. In practice, the HR role is not centralized at the top because the HR cannot be everywhere at all times. It is therefore the duty of the HR to train all those in supervisory positions in basic people management skills to consolidate the Human Resource Management Function.
HOST: The majority of the hotels in Ghana are under fifty rooms (small, considering size) with between 17 to 20 personnel. Such hotels do not see themselves affording the services of an HR. The Owner-Manager and/or the Manager is delegated to perform the HR roles you have spelt out and Supervisors seem to be more focused of their areas of specialization. In such an environment would you anticipate a lot of challenges which could bring about heightening anxiety between the workforce and the Owner-Manager? If so, how would you advise both parties?
GUEST: Oh yes! One cannot be fair in playing both roles; as HR and Owner-Manager. There is a conflict of interest. I would advise the Owner -Manager to seek professional advice. And should an employee think his or her rights have been infringed on, the labor office is there to report to.
HOST: How does an HR play a balanced role, convincing both the employer and the employee that s/he has both interests at heart?
GUEST: To start with, the role of the HR is not discretionary as stated in my earlier explanation. The HR is also an employee who is subject to the rules and regulations within the organization in which he/she works. The HR has a job description and a boss who supervises his/her work and provides assessment on same. The HR is supposed to be the neutralizing force to curb/absorb excesses from either the employees or the employer by simply applying the rules of the organization. If the HR performs his/her duties within her job role and the specified structure provided, I am sure there will be no concerns for the HR being biased against either the employer or the employee.
The issue of an HR being biased is a performance related issue and we must acknowledge the fact that employees don’t perform in a vacuum, there are a lot of factors be it personal, organization based or external that affect performance. For this discussion, I would like to mention only 2 of such factors i.e. organizational structure and personality traits of the worker.
Personality traits play a very vital role in the performance at work and a person’s traits determine their suitability for a particular role or otherwise. However, even if the person occupying a particular role does not have the preferred traits, systems within the organization can help curb the shortcoming in performance of such an employee. In the case of the organizational structure, an inappropriate structure could lead to performance challenges of certain key persons like the HR. Who does the HR report to? What is that person’s disposition to staff matters? Does he/she usurp the powers of the HR? What happens to the HR if he/she disobeys his/her boss and does the right thing? What channels are available to the HR to address issues of his/her superiors usurping his/her powers? Does the structure of the organization allow the HR to play her role as required? What is the level of the HR in the organogram of the organization? This is a very lengthy topic that we will need a full session to discuss.
In every environment where there are either no systems or available systems do not work, the performance of an HR in such an environment is hampered.
A Human Resource Practitioner needs not convince either an employer or the employee merely by word of mouth of being unbiased in the performance of his/her duties. This is because being biased against employees is being biased against oneself because the HR is also an employee. The HR as a Management staff cannot be biased against the employer because that will also amount to being biased against oneself.
The HR is expected to be fair and firm in decision making to reflect the ground rules of the organization and that is the assurance to all parties of being unbiased. In fact, the core of the duties of the HR prohibits him/her from being biased.
HOST: Thank you. Hopefully, Owner-Managers or Managers with no HRs in their organizations will take some cues from this since they may realize that they are acting as both players and referees. Now, kindly explain these terminologies: reduction of workforce, reduction of salaries, layoffs and terminations.
GUEST: ‘Workforce reduction’ also referred to as ‘downsizing’ in some circles is a common organizational practice which occurs when an employer, due to reasons such as economic downturns or failing business, permanently terminates or temporarily lays off a large number of its workforce in order to reduce the staff strength to a desired number. For instance, a 50% reduction in total workforce from 100 to 50. Workforce reduction may come with some legal implications such as payment of severance packages to affected employees. The amount to be paid is subject to negotiation between the affected employees and the employer.
‘Reduction in salary’ is the process used by the employer to lower the amount of pay of an employee or a group of employees who still perform same jobs they were performing before the reduction. The employer has various reasons for reducing salary of workers but these reasons must conform to those stated in collective bargaining agreements or those that can be classified as a result of an unforeseen economic shock.
Though most people use the terms ‘Layoff’ and ‘Termination’ interchangeably, they mean different things
Termination is the process where the employer permanently breaks the employment contract with an employee. There are various reasons stated in Act 651 under which termination can occur.
Layoff on the other hand is a temporary cessation of work due to unavailability of work and the employee would be called back whenever there is work. This mostly happens in seasonal work environments. Layoff must also conform to certain legal standards.
This part of our conversation sort to bring some clarity in the functions of HRs in organizations in general. Ms. Dzokoto spelt out several activities involving employees from “intake to exit”.
Very few of our hotels, however, have HR practitioners but are compelled to perform the typical functions of the HR because in every organization the workforce/employees must be managed.
The discussion further highlighted the need to have established systems comprising of policies (rules and regulations), and procedures in every organization, no matter how small. Effective communication within the organization should reflect everyone working within the ‘space’ carrying out their responsibilities within the spelt-out policies.