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The Secret Of Delivering Value Through Human Resources

The Importance of Work to the Human Psyche

‘Work to live, don’t live to work,’ say the Spanish and most of us can sympathise with the sentiment, particularly if we are used to long, dull working days. It also chimes with an idea that grew alongside the development of industrial society, the idea of of work as drudgery, as the antithesis of living.

A company's greatest asset is its people

A company’s greatest asset is its people

There is another argument however which says that work is not merely a necessary evil enabling us to obtain money; it is the place where many of us find meaning and value in our lives, whether this is through the work we produce or through the relationships we form. Work gives a sense of purpose to our days and a structure to our week. It shapes our identities, brings us self-respect, and creates a sense of pride about what we do and who we are.

There is much evidence to suggest that, provided we receive a reasonable wage and have a measure of job security, money is quite low down the list of motivating factors when it comes to job contentment, and consequently to the ability of companies to retain their staff. The Mercer global engagement scale1, measuring worker satisfaction found that base pay came low down a list of 12 factors that ‘engage’ employees. The top value is placed upon ‘respect’ – how much workers feel valued and trusted by their organisation. ‘People you work with’ and ‘good work/life balance’ also rank highly.

Employee engagement levels

Global employee engagement scale (source:

The Costs of an Unhappy Workforce

If work does not make us happy, it is costly. The recent Foresight Programme2 study into mental capital and wellbeing estimated that sickness, absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’ (being at work but contributing little or no value) cost £26 billion a year. And we mustn’t forget the extra costs of recruitment and training new employees in a company that has a high staff turnover.

It follows that how workers feel in their jobs, whether they feel they are listened to, cherished, developed and challenged by their roles is a bottom-line issue for businesses. As the Sunday Times survey of the Top 100 Companies demonstrates3: create happy employees and not only do they work harder, they stay. It is no coincidence that some of the businesses with the highest employee satisfaction are also top financial performers.

Iceland: the UK's favourite employer

It’s not all about salary: Iceland are #1 in staff satisfaction (source:

A glance at the Fortune4; top performers shows a similar result; the world’s most successful companies look after their staff.

Google make staff feel valued

In the US, it’s about respect – and food (source:

Since work is so important to us, since we spend so much time there, and since its output constitutes the national economy, it is surprising that the importance of making people happy in their jobs is only now being thought through fully at business and governmental level. Get the balance wrong and we sow dysfunction into the workplace, which we reap in the ways mentioned. Stress-related sickness has now replaced backache as the number one cause of workplace absence, with stress and mental health responsible for 40% of all Incapacity Benefit claims.

Placing high demands on the worker, without their having sufficient control or support, a perceived imbalance between effort and reward and a sense of unfairness at management processes are some of the stress-inducing risks to employees identified by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) report5 into mental wellbeing at work. It is the need to avoid these risks and to create some of the added value promoted by innovators such as those in the Sunday Times survey that have made issues of Human Resource management one of the key drivers of organisational strategy.

The Importance of Human Resources in Today’s World

Previously viewed with something approaching condescension, Human Resources (HR) departments now call the shots in many ways. The large-scale industrial process where many did the same job has been effectively superseded by workplace environments where many people perform different, specialised roles requiring training and ongoing development, as well as well-thought out HR management that enables their skills to dovetail efficiently and without conflict. Tasks and teams need a level of planning that takes into account the entire organisational structure.

There has also been a huge growth in service industries where interpersonal relationships, both with customers and amongst staff, are key to performance. All this has seen a shift away from merely ‘getting bodies in’ – once the concern of the antiquated Personnel Department – to a focus on placing the right people in the right jobs, and developing their attributes once they are in situ – the job of a Human Resource professional.

Globally, over a million people now work in HR and it has become a go-to career path for the brightest and most ambitious, not least because HR jobs tend to be very well-paid (not surprising one might say given that they’re they guys setting the pay scales!). Perhaps because an HR manager’s role can be said to demand a high degree of emotional intelligence (understanding what makes people tick, identifying and developing their strengths etc.) jobs in the sector have traditionally been filled by women. However, men are increasingly being attracted by this cutting edge area of business which combines management, strategy, psychology, finance and law.

How do you Become an HR Professional?

An HR brain covers many things ...

There are many aspects to an HR Professional (source:

If you are interested in developing your HR skills, you will find that relevent modules usually form part of higher qualifications such as MBAs or Business degrees. If, however, you are interested in following an HR-centred career, there are courses leading to an EdExcel BTEC Award, Certificate or a Diploma in Human Resources Management that fit the bill.

Then there is a choice of ways you can take the courses. You can study all aspects of Human Resource Management by spending time at a traditional college, but many prefer to study for the same qualifications online, as they find it more convenient to learn about the subject within their normal workplace environment.

The Range of HR Qualifications

There are a standard three levels of qualifications within the BTEC framework:

  • If you wish to dip your toe in the water and gain a basic understanding of HR there is a Level 5 Award in Human Resources Management6 which gives an overview of HR theories and covers key issues of recruitment and selection.
  • The three-module Level 5 Certificate in Human Resources7 includes a module which delves more deeply into current thinking and practice in the field and explores topical matters such as (e.g) how to introduce flexibility into the work environment.
  • If you are fully intent on an HR career, or are already working in HR you may wish to work towards a Higher National Diploma in Human Resource Management 8 which consists of 16 units and can be topped up to a Degree in Business and Management with one further years’ study. The HND covers all angles of the HR industry and how it integrates with other business functions.

All of these courses are available to study through traditional offline institutions that have specific course start dates, do not have flexible timetables, and that are not designed to fit in with your everyday life. This suits some who need to be immersed in a learning environment to get the best out of it.

The same HR courses are also available through accredited online tuition. In these cases tuition is through Moodle, an online learning environment (OLE) which means tutors are constantly available for support, advice and guidance. For those who need a flexible timetable without leaving their current workplace, this works very well.

So What Does It Mean For Me?

As people increasingly look to find meaning and fulfillment in what they do, business is realising that it pays to respond to these needs. This changing business environment is being powered from within the Human Resources department and this influence is only going to grow.

And as there are easily available online courses designed to encourage your own work/life balance while you study, the barriers to entry into this growing field have come crashing down.



1  For more information, see (

2 For more information, see

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5  For more information, see

6 For more information, see

7  For more information, see

8  For more information, see

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