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Transforming HR

Posted by denise on 9 August 2014 | 0 Comments

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LinkedIn  chatter around the future of HR questions whether it should be split into administration (transactional arm) and leadership/organisation (transformational arm)  and whether HR  is credible and relevant for today’s changing business.   In short it’s about HR value.

Dave Ulrich suggests that ‘Value is defined by the receiver more than the giver’.  This then suggests that we have to be clear about what HR value means to our customers.

We need to take a step back and look at the value of HR through the lens of our differing customers; our people, our line managers, our senior leaders, our external customers.  It might look like this:

Our People
  • will be clear about their role in the organisation and how they contribute to organisational results
  • will have confidence in the transactional elements of their pay, leave, etc., as well as the accuracy and integrity of the information held about them
  • will feel that they are treated fairly and consistently; that their issues and concerns are addressed speedily and confidentially;  that the organisation is committed to them at a personal and professional level
  • will recommend their employer as a ‘great place to work’ , where performance and excellence is recognised
Our People Leaders
  • are supported to hire the right people (at the risk of cliché in the right seats, right time etc. ) with the skills and attitude to deliver on business goals
  • receive  quality advice and support (and have confidence in that) to achieve their business goals
  • receive the level of  information, tools, coaching and development to confidently lead and manage their people
  • experience  an independent-minded HR function, which understands the workforce and can help management balance employee and business needs
Our Senior Leaders
  • HR will ‘help them to win’ by establishing  a clear roadmap for the future around leveraging their people capability (the strategic/transformational element)
  • HR will be known less for taking a ‘police’ approach, or the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and more for its’ reputation for excellence in people management and supporting transformational change
  • HR will be known for the efficiency and currency of its’ operating systems and processes (the operational/transactional element)
Our Customers
  • Experience engaged staff with the right skills and attitude who go the extra mile to deliver great service.

All of this means that HR needs to engage more seriously with finding out what its’ customers need and their experiences of current HR services.   Our customers want a proactive HR function, which spots issues ahead of time and works closely with managers to address them

We keep talking about the fact that HR needs to be credible, strategic and transformational.   In a fast changing business environment the need for HR to take a lead role in future proofing the business is critical.   However, be cautious about positioning HR on a purely transformational plane at the expense of getting  the basic  transactional stuff right.  Trust me, if you’ve stuffed up on basics such as pay, etc., you'll have experienced the  flak from unhappy staff who aren't  bought by the fact that you’ve been ‘busy’ working on a new HR initiative.

When it comes to people strategy it’s about horses for courses.  The degree of HR sophistication and approach  is influenced by the size of the organisation, the level of  technology, culture, it’s national/global position, and it’s business priorities.  Let’s also add into the mix the degree to which the head honcho allows the chief HR person to operate outside of the transactional arena.  I remember being interviewed for a management role  many years ago, I was asked to present on ‘HR’s value to the business’.  When I was hired the boss said to me ‘I’d never looked at HR that way, I thought it was all about forms, pay and leave’.  The classic ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’.

How does HR need to evolve?  The PwC  report Future of Work paints an interesting picture of the future workforce.  Their research shows that workforce mobility levels have increased by 25% over the last decade and are predicted to grow by 50% by 2020; technology breakthroughs will transform the way people do work; the people strategy will be driven by  radically different & diverse business models  and priorities.  The PwC survey revealed that HR professionals don’t believe they’re prepared for meeting the needs of a workforce that demands more freedom, autonomy and flexibility. 

In the Linkedin discussion group I made the following point.  You can operate the most sexy HR/people/culture structure on the planet but if the HR people there don’t understand the business and lack the skills to analyse and ask the right questions it will be maintenance of the status quo in terms of HR credibility and contribution. A common complaint is that HR folk are too ‘HR centric’ and internally focused. To build the required business  knowledge and credibility it's about getting out there, wrap your arms around the business to understand the business model and flow, each business unit and how they affect each other, and the customer : service/product relationship.  In practice this has meant that in my career I’ve spent time on the shop floor making product, worked with QC people understanding product reject and working night shifts to understand the 24/7 operations. Understanding the external environment – who and how your competitors are hiring, rewarding and developing is critical business intelligence. At every business junction there are people who are the ‘value generators’, when they fail to do this the business fails. Plain and simple.


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