David E Ellender of Pricewaterhouse Cooper has written a thought-provoking article comparing cost views and value views of HR and employee benefit programmes.
Mr Ellender's past work in the employee benefits sector has no doubt served him well in presenting the article. The challenges are aimed at both HR practitioners and at business managers.
The highlighting of the business manager's view of employee benefits as a business cost is recogniseable in many businesses, and Mr Ellender's suggestion that HR managers should be leading the way in measuring such programmes through a 'value added' system is commendable. His argument that many managers see raw materials and processing costs as being contributary to profit production but fail to see employee investment in the same way can tend to hit a nerve.
The argument is extended though to say that there is a language barrier between HR and business managers,
'Another complicating factor is that HR professionals are told they speak a different language (one of tactics and content) than the language of business (normally defined as the language of finance). HR talks about intangibles, subjectivity, and quality of life, while the language of business measures tangibles with strict objectivity.'
In concluding the article, Mr Ellender suggests approaches that HR managers could make to improve employee benefit programme acceptability.