Apprenticeships put Human Resource at the HeaRt of Business 

Across the UK, there is a war on talent raging. A business’s human resource is a recognised source of competitive advantage. To maintain this advantage it is vital that an HR function understands all aspects of organisational strategy; its aims, objectives, strengths and weaknesses in order to identify the gaps in personnel or skills that could derail these plans. 

While business strategy is always considered to be a high profile role in any organisation, typically the sales, finance and marketing function were perceived to add value while the human resource (HR) function lacked a place at the table. 

But no more. If they weren’t already, doing so the Covid pandemic forced employers to re-evaluate the way they do business and put HR in the spotlight. Companies are now increasingly accountable for the decisions they take and the way they treat their staff. 

What’s more, the impact of ongoing economic uncertainty, remote working and an all-too-real impact on employees’ mental health are forcing businesses across the UK to place human resources at the heart of their operation.

HR Apprenticeships help HR departments align with business goals

City Skills Tutor Jim Blythe explains how HR apprenticeships can help HR departments align with the wider business objectives to ensure they provide the relevant support for an organisation now and in the future. 

“One of the important roles for the HR apprenticeship is to help the apprentice understand how HR connects to the business. Rather than thinking of HR as being this thing that sits alongside a function, actually it should be an integral part of the organisation. 

We use the apprenticeship to link everything up to what an organisation is trying to achieve; what its values are, what the objectives and how someone in HR is able to break those down and use them to inform what HR needs to do to contribute to achieving those objectives.”

“An apprenticeship allows us to do is take a learner right back to the start of a business; what it does, the sector it operates in, what is it trying to achieve, what are its aims and objectives and then we start to build, and build and build.

“We can ensure the apprentice – whatever level they are at- has a very clear picture of the business they work in, what the current status, where it wants to go and the role of the HR function in helping that business achieve that.”“It’s important that an apprentice understands the structure of the HR department and how it is set up to effect change. They might be a HR Practitioner Level 3 apprentice, and relatively inexperienced so they aren’t planning to restructure the HR department, but at least they can understand why it’s structured the way it is and maybe identify better ways or setting up as the business evolves.

Historical HR policies. 

Jim continues, “Many times the HR department is using a number of legacy policies, which may be incredibly frustrating for a new HR apprentice, but at least the apprentice can understand how this has happened and has the opportunity to reflect and think about it.”“During our discussions we are able to get into things like what does the employee manual say, what legislation should you be aware of? We ask the questions; is this still practical, is it applicable, is it still legal and if not what would you change and why.”

HR role in supporting line managers

As so many day to day HR duties fall to line managers, a key role of the HR function is to educate and support managers in their work with direct reports. This is another key topic of discussion within an HR apprenticeship. 

Jim says, “A lot of day-to-day HR activities are carried out by line managers and therefore the role of the HR practitioner, to be truly effective, is to help the line manager to know what they’re supposed to do and how to stop them doing something wrong.”

Usually the point at which HR gets involved in a situation is when it has escalated. If a line manager has taken the appropriate initial steps the impact for all parties can be lessened. Often HR will be responsible for training every line manager in what their roles and responsibilities were. We discuss using scenario based training so everyone understands how to respond to a situation. The apprenticeship teaches HR practitioners to understand that when there’s an HR issue, trying to ascertain where that issue has come from; is there a problem with a staff member, or is it actually a problem with their manager? 

Continued learning and development

The rate at which business has been forced to change, compounded by Brexit or the recent Covid pandemic has meant that HR specialists have needed to stay up to date with the latest legislation and how it applies to any business. 

Again, Jim says, this is where ongoing self-learning as part of an apprenticeship can help HR professionals. 

“We often pose the apprentices the question of how are you going to keep up to date with latest trends and practices; what are you going to sign up to, what will you read. We put a lot of emphasis on how the apprentices keep themselves up to date. They have support but they need to take ownership of their learning too. Having a cohort of peers to discuss latest trends and developments with is also a wonderful resource for them to tap into.

HR teams must become the embodiment of an organisation’s culture and vision. To do this they must become embedded within all aspects of a business to ensure skills gaps, personnel gaps or culture gaps can be filled to deliver a wider business strategy.

See what an HR apprenticeship could do for your business. 

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