How to run an efficient HR department

A good HR department can be one of your business’s true blessings, taking on the day to day rigmarole which can otherwise eat up valuable time and energy
Elke Willaert, human resources manager DHL Express
By Neil King
Wed 06 Mar 2013 09:00 AM

A good HR department can be one of your business’s true blessings, taking on the day to day rigmarole which can otherwise eat up valuable time and energy. Elke Willaert, human resources manager for DHL Express UAE tells us just how small businesses can get the best out of an HR department.


There are a number of main constraints that a HR department can face, especially if it is within the SME sector.

Smaller budgets, less brand visibility and, in some circumstances, limited understanding of HR processes can result in HR departments being pushed into an administrative role.

Developing an efficient HR function is not purely the domain of large businesses and there are several things that SMEs can do to overcome – and even celebrate – what might have traditionally been seen as a constraint when it comes to effective HR.

Getting the basics right – payroll and policies:

It is crucial to have a payroll and policies system set in place for your employees as this will serve as a basis for preparing, processing and recording payrolls.  This ensures that employees are paid on time and that one of their first impressions of the company is a good one that will instill confidence and potentially help retain staff in the long-term. Not only will a company benefit from an effective payroll system, but these processes will also save time when finalising and approving requests such as medical insurance claims and overtime.

Payroll is the first critical step that needs to be established by the HR department as any delays in issuing salaries will not only de-motivate employees, but even worse could lead to a negative perception about the company and its finances.

Employee engagement:

Employee engagement can take many guises but is quite simply a way of lifting employee morale and building a sense of belonging amongst employees which can significantly contribute towards the success of a company. Companies with high levels of employee engagement have shown that it helps to attract potential and retain the exceptional talent as well as project a positive image about the company and encourage more people want to come and work there.

Employee engagement activities don’t necessarily need to cost a lot of money and it’s always a good idea to encourage employees to suggest creative ideas so they can get involved. One of our most successful initiatives at DHL Express UAE was our very own edition of DHL Idol, which saw the whole team pitch in with preparations which we hosted in one of our warehouses and made the performance podium ourselves. Over 100 people took part and more than 400 came along to support them, and the impact of the event on all our employees lasted long after the night event was over. It’s a simple idea but it’s the perfect example of how the monetary value of such events can be next to nothing but will reap dividends in employee spirit.

Employee recognition is also an important aspect that a company needs to consider. Outstanding achievers and long term service should be recognised through certificates, trophies and maybe small monetary gifts, although this is by no means necessary. These might seem small and unimportant but the impact they have on employees is massive, boosting morale (amongst colleagues for being an outstanding achiever or employee of the year etc) and pride (for example, for being with the company ten or 20 years, etc).

At DHL we have Everyday Heroes for each division, which act in much the same way as an employee of the month awards. Towards the end of the year the individuals who have won this award will be nominated for the Employee of the Year award which acts as a real incentive as the team eagerly awaits the celebration.

Working on understanding what the business needs so all efforts can be concentrated around this:

Once objectives and goals are identified by the senior management team, the HR department needs to provide the internal drive and vision to make sure that all employees are aware of the company’s goals and objectives.

This can be done through internal meetings with members of the senior management and employees – similar to the concept of a town hall meeting. At DHL we have quarterly meetings with the Country Manager at each Service Station and country office. We also have an initiative which we call ‘Business Bites’, where the Country Manager meets with front line employees, this provides an opportunity for them to discuss all aspects of the business as well as addressing any concerns they would like the senior management to address. This empowers employees to contribute their ideas and skills to influence the success of the company.

Finally, clarity and transparency in communication, for example having separate meetings and briefings throughout the various levels within the company, is essential as the key messages will differ from one level to the other (middle management, versus emerging managers, versus front line, etc). This will ensure the vision and goals are being driven correctly across all aspects of the business.

These guidelines are a snapshot of key starting points to develop a strong and efficient HR department but all in all, a company that respects and maintains a high standard when it comes to the working environment for employees will build a prosperous team that will work the extra mile for you.

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Last Updated: Thu 26 Jan 2017 01:27 PM GST

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