Managing people during a time of change – interview with Barbara Kelly, Lead Adviser on Human Resources Management

September 22, 2016

On 14 September 2016, EUAM delivered a one-day training on human resource management and leadership skills in Kyiv for ten human resources professionals of the Ukrainian State Border Guards Service (BGS). Managing personnel is during a time of change is one of the most difficult tasks for any human resources team and the training session provided advice on how to define and communicate change, define HR skills, competences and qualifications, develop selection criteria for staff recruitment, promotion, replacement etc. They were also given training on how to conduct effective structured interviews. After an assessment of this first training, which acts as a pilot project, the sessions are expected to continue for other BGS staff.

In this interview, Barbara Kelly, EUAM’s Lead Adviser on Human Resources Management explains what it takes to be an effective HR manager and how human resources will play an important role in assisting Ukraine with its transition.

What does it take to be an effective HR manager?

The ideal HR manager will have a broad range of different skills. They will have to think strategically and plan and organise in such a way that strategies can be executed. Good planning doesn’t mean rigidity however – quite the opposite – a good HR manager will have to be able to multitask and be flexible enough to handle grey areas, while at the same time keeping the bigger strategic picture in mind.

It goes without saying that they will have to be ethical, trustworthy, compassionate and discrete. They should be able to handle and manage conflicts and problems – for that reason, good interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate effectively are crucial.

Lastly, they should be passionate about people and what they do. A sense of humour also helps! It’s a tough job, but not impossible, especially with the right support and training.

How does being an HR manager in a law enforcement body such as the police or border guards differ from a private company?

In our experience with different Ukrainian law enforcement bodies, HR departments were traditionally seen as just a document management section. Consequently, staff often lack the support and skills to assist their organisation become a well-functioning and effective collective with a shared vision and values.

Important skills that need to be supported include abilities to assist staff with career development, managing talent, accurately assessing staffing needs and planning for instances when people leave the organisation for whatever reason. To recruit new staff in a fair way, it is also important to develop interview skills and spot talent during recruitment processes.

HR departments should play a central role in promoting professional ethics, conduct and discipline, recognising excellence, managing relations between employees and management, resolving disputes and promoting health, safety and wellness. These are areas which HR departments in Ukrainian public institutions are often underequipped to deal with.

How can human resources management assist Ukraine with its transition?

People are the most important asset in any organisation. It seems obvious, but HR isn’t always given the right importance. Proper Human Resources Management allows the organisation to meet and exceed its organisational goals in the most effective manner.

Human Resources Management is therefore extremely important in assisting Ukraine with its transition, as it will optimise existing resources, including Human, Material, Time, and Information resources and smooth the transition to a ‘better state’.

What do you mean by ‘change management’?

Change management is quite simply managing the process of change in any organisation. This means managing people and processes effectively. Ukraine is in the middle of enormous change and the organisations that serve the public here must constantly assess whether their goals and strategies, will keep them abreast of the changing environment.

What are the specific areas in the Border Guards service that need assistance?

BGS needs and has asked for assistance in many areas, starting with the design of the overall HR Concept and Action Plan which will guide the border service to becoming a reformed organisation in line with the best EU and international practices. To do this, they have asked for training as well as programmes to train future trainers who will take care of training staff in the organisation. Overall, BGS is starting the move towards becoming a proactive and progressive organisation and we are very glad that they have welcomed our efforts and assistance.

What would be your recommendations for Ukraine’s Border Guard Service?

Maintain progress with the HR Concept and Action Plan and remain open to advice. And always communicate, communicate and communicate some more!