One of my close friends, a banker was discussing about the role of HR at his workplace and specifically about HR business partnering. One of his pet peeves is that HR only seems to react when there is a need or an emergency often pushing business to put on a client hat and escalate for solutions. It has been a common feedback especially from established organizations. And I believe it is something to do with the HR culture that has been built up over the years.
HR practitioners in traditionally structured organizations frequently complain that business treats them like support staff so much so that calling HR a support function has become a taboo. The struggle to be perceived beyond a support function is real. But whether business considers HR as a corner office for paperwork or a strategic advisor is based on how the HR culture is defined by the organization and by those within HR.
To understand the perception of HR in an organization, ask these questions;
- What are the issues that would make you go to your HR manager?
- Are you comfortable with having a HR Business Partner in your meetings
- Do you think your HR Business Partner understands the business from a business perspective?
To understand the culture of HR we need to think if we are :
- Saying no instead of figuring out how to say yes
- Frequently explaining why it cannot be done
- Wondering if HR needs to be involved in something
- Bouncing responsibility between recruitment and HR operations
- Fighting unreasonable demands from business leaders
The answers to the above questions will indicate if it is time for a culture and brand transformation. In order to revamp the image of HR within an organization, the following points of change need to be focussed upon :
- Business Acumen
- Collaborative Solutions based support
- Proactive approach to analytics
- HR Branding
First let’s step off the high pedestal. HR is not the bookkeeper, gatekeeper or merely a conscience keeper of the organization. HR today is a customer focused team that works with the business to achieve the organization goals while ensuring that the path to those goals is aligned with its own people strategies. In order to establish this image, HR needs to understand the end-customer and what the business does to attract, nurture and retain those customers. This understanding brings with it a better clarity on the processes, people and products of the organization and ultimately helps in aligning it with HR goals for attracting, developing and retaining the talent that runs these 3 P’s.
Collaborative Solution Based Support
Instead of HR crying hoarse on why a particular request from business cannot be done because a) its unfair b) it is expensive c) it is against policy or d)we could be jailed – lets say “HeyI understand why you have this request and let me explain why it cannot be done in the way you had suggested. Lets work together to see if we can get this done for you as I know it is critical to the team. Can we try this? Do you have any other suggestions?”. The focus should be shifted from the function to the solution.
Proactive Approach To Analytics
Analytics need not necessarily involve large technology investments or technical resources. Using analytics which can be as simple as generating an excel file. The focus is to understand what is the information the business needs about its people to run its show. It can be quantitative numbers for productivity, absenteeism, hiring SLA’s, attrition or salary or qualitative analytics for potential, behaviors, ROI on talent. A basic understanding will enable HR to see who needs this data, when do they need it, what do they need it for and then what story does this data say. Whether it is a data analysis or a trend forecast, the success of HR depends on how proactively it is able to anticipate a need for data and providing the same with additional inputs to enable business to craft better strategies.
A simple feedback form sent to senior management or an employee focus group study will give a sense of perceptions of and expectation from HR. Visibility is the first step towards a rebranding exercise. How far should an employee travel to meet a HR representative? Is HR just a call away or across the aisle. What does HR in your organization represent? It can be innovation or progress or service orientation. But it is critical to create that image to change the way the employees, management, customers or stakeholders perceive the people function of the organization. New hire on boarding, confirmation discussions, scheduled employee meetups, coffee chats, policy clinics are all tools to create a brand image. These are opportunities to show the commitment HR has towards each employee and to the business in creating a better workplace.
Human Resources has travelled a long way over the last couple of years. From being a cost function or support division, HR is gaining acceptance and a lot of organizations understand that the key differentiator in the coming years would be based on how best an organization can attract, develop and retain talent. It is essential that the practice of HR and the culture that represents us also evolve to be business focused and solutions oriented. We are no longer in HR because we love to meet people. We are in HR to make a difference to business.
This post was first published on LinkedIn