HR – Progressing from administrator to business partner, predictive strategist and trusted colleague? The service deliverables.

In previous posts I have argued for a “best” HR senior generalist running a core team of specialists to then CONNECT with HRBPs who provide a “one stop shop” service via CONNECTION to their business customers. Those services prioritised to aid (or even drive) business success.

Although this is a tried and tested approach (that works) the business judges HR on what is delivered (not how we are structured) and so “impactive delivery” remains the cornerstone of progress on the administrator to full business partner continuum.

When working with HR groups, an activity we use is for everyone to wear their HRBP “hat” with one individual taking on the business lead cum CEO role for a regular update meet and then raising a number of concerns/questions such as:

“District X is way below KPI growth targets. Do we know why? Is it a poor hiring, lack of training or poor leadership issue? How might we resolve/improve?”

“Engagement ratings in operation and process departments seem low (at 62%) and there is little productivity improvement as promised from this initiative. What can we do to address this?” 

“Turnover in front line retail roles seems high and on the rise, with recruitment and training costs rising for replacements. Customer complaints are also increasing as a result. Do we know why and what can we do about it?

There are more but the examples above paint the basic picture. As you can imagine the debate on responses and potential solutions is lively but what this emphasises is the breadth of understanding an HRBP requires of the business they serve and the variety of responses required to serve that business well. The capability to discuss these issues constructively with a business lead is key to a credible working relationship as they then, working with relevant specialists, investigate and provide suggested actions to resolve.

However, an HRBP working in this way has moved about HALF WAY along the continuum mentioned above!! That is because the scenario described assumes a business leader is aware of all the various movements/problems/difficulties within each of his or her business lines and that HR will be able to provide solutions. This is not always the case – actually it is not always the case far more often than it should be. 

So, let’s return to the scenario of the HRBP regular update meeting with the business lead where only very general questions or requests for HR support are being raised. Now the HRBPs role becomes much more one of influence and education, initiating discussion on issues such as:

“Voluntary turnover in front line retail roles is rising and new hires are only averaging 6 to 9 months stay with us before leaving. Recruitment and training costs are therefore rising along with customer complaints from dealing with inexperienced staff. We have looked at management style, training and career opportunities but believe the issue revolves around pay. We are below market for these roles – particularly for high performers – and I suggest i work with the Reward specialist to provide competitor comparisons and proposals for improvement where justified.”

NB This is the scenario faced by Wal-Mart recently who then announced a 2 stage salary increment for 400,000 staff, partly funded by the anticipated cost savings on recruitment and training.

“We are seeing signs that final selection for new hires and promotions is not producing “high performing best talent” required in these roles. Data from the last 12 months suggests that many of these appointments are performing at (or sometimes below) average. The performance management process probably needs strengthening – will come back to you on that shortly with some proposals – but for now we see the issue as a lack of capability in line managers to conduct robust and objective criterion based interviews. The short lists being provided seem to have a good range of high calibre candidates but we seem unable to select those that will perform to the high standard we want. This is particularly true when selection is made by junior and middle level managers and has serious consequences for the longer term if the strength of our talent base continues to weaken. I suggest we put together a series of interviewing workshops for this target audience and continue to track hires/promotions to gauge improvements.”

NB Google are apparently proud of two particular numbers: 86% – the number of great hires made for every hundred vacancies (they have worked out the exact questions to be asked over a series of no more than 4 interviews that separate out those that can perform/develop and those that cannot) and 0% – the number of people paid the same salary (probably the base for a future post).

In closing I would like to emphasise two further points in relation to appointing capable, well developed, generalist HRBPs that can impact business success.

– When I first made these appointments it was not surprising that business leads were fairly ecstatic to finally have a “one stop shop” to go to for their varied HR solutions. What was more of a surprise was the impact on staff – as HRBPs spent more and more within the business they increasingly became the trusted colleague I mention in the initial question at the beginning of this post. We learnt much from the heightened communication (both ways) on how many initiatives were progressing (or not) and were able to both brief senior management and then respond to improvement requests in real time. 

– It remains the responsibility of the business line to drive performance, select best talent, use a salary or bonus “pot” effectively etc. but their are (many) occasions when good intentions are not matched by the ability of the individual manager to deliver. Where an HRBP can write a “measurable/deliverable” set of KPIs, aligned to strategic intent OR conduct an objective/effective selection interview OR use a salary pot wisely to differentiate individuals against market and on merit etc., they can then help the line to improve their capability to do the same. The impact of this type of development service from “the best” HRBP’s cannot be overstated.

Joel Farnworth
Chartered Fellow CIPD & M.A. in Management Learning
EXPERT ADVISOR IN LEADERSHIP & HUMAN CAPABILITY DEVELOPMENT

 

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