HR – Progressing from administrator to impactive business partner, predictive strategist and trusted colleague?
Note that the title ends with a question mark as I have been reading a number of articles recently that are critical of HR progress, our lack of impactive services and overall contribution to business success. Too many business leaders continue to complain of a lack of alignment to strategic intentions and the quest for competitive advantage and too many of these complaints appear justified.

So, how can we respond and improve?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that those of us who worked originally to implement Ulrich’s idea of HR as a business partner and have subsequently refined but driven in this approach can agree that the fundamental services that achieve this revolve around “best talent”. The ability of a business to attract, develop, use, progress and succeed that talent where it can make most impact on performance and delivery of strategic intentions.

These fundamental HR services include:

-Strategic Advice and Counsel, supported by metric and trend analysis and interpretation.
-Talent Management, including recruitment, assessment, development, progress and succession of best talent (and supported by a broad based training and learning service).
-Performance Management, providing a process of measurable deliverables at all levels of the business that align individual performance delivery to strategic intent.
-Rewards Management, providing the best mix of fixed and variable awards and benefits provided on a differentiated, merit basis against performance, potential and the market
-Organizational Design and Development, including design of efficient structures and support of employment branding via values, diversity and engagement.

With these services in place it is then critical that they are CONNECTED to the business and EACH OTHER so that a seamless and coordinated approach is provided to business customers. In simple terms, there is little point in having a great talent service if performance management is poor or rewards are not differentiated and related to market. Exceptional working relationships across the HR house are key to making this a reality.

Establishing these fundamental services as key raises two further questions -does HR have the individuals with the capability to fulfill these roles and deliver to business as intended ie. can a core internal team be built that can implement the above and what does that core team do when it is in place?

Taking the latter question, a core team with these capabilities primarily:

-Designs and delivers the services needed for the business to succeed, adapting and prioritizing as the business evolves and competition requires further change and improvement.
-TRANSLATES the many ideas and approaches that HR has to offer into the practical offerings needed by the business at its current stage of evolution.
– Develops those in Business Partner roles (GENERALISTS, who provide a “one stop shop” service to their particular part of the business) so they can deliver, facilitate and influence progress over time.
-Constantly reviews HR solutions, progress and impact and adapts and improves to meet new or more demanding needs. 

As for whether HR has the individuals to fulfill these roles, the answer is yes but there are not enough (yet) to meet the need. They are growing and increasing but part of the reason that we continue to have complaints from business is that their demand for solutions in an increasingly competitive world is immediate and we have been somewhat slower in responding with the service solutions and great HR people to deliver them.

As I wrote this note I began thinking of how I would fill the six roles above from the many hundreds of HR professionals I have worked with over the years – a bit like picking your all time favourite soccer team but a bit more serious. It took me a while and there are a number that came close but my all time greatest core HR team would comprise of one individual each from South America, MENA, India and Hong Kong and two from the UK. What about the US, Australia, China etc. I hear you say – no doubt a number who may make your own lists, I just haven’t worked there enough recently to know of them. Interestingly with my team, 3 are men and 3 are women and 3 we “bought-in” and 3 we developed ourselves.

The major point being that those six great people (and others) are out there developing their own core team and business partners and so HR capability spreads and grows – I just wish, like the business customers we strive to serve, we could progress a little (or a lot) faster.

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