These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest HR Business Partner Think Tank (HRBPTT) held on Thursday 5th December 2013 hosted by the Engine Group’s Bonnie Arora (HR Business Partner) titled ‘Raising the Profile and Credibility of HR by Adding Value’.
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
HR is often scrutinised for its ability to add business value, especially in-light of a certain journalist’s remarks over at the Telegraph! Whilst we profoundly disagree with the allegations made in this article, what can HR do to promote the credibility of the function and demonstrate the true value it adds?
At this HR Business Partner Think Tank we will be discussing the ways in which HR can enhance and raise its profile to prevent it being considered a ‘pointless function that does little for the bottom line’ – quote Louisa Peacock at the Telegraph. For example, what are the best reporting statistics that drive engagement from the wider business and where are the quick wins that highlight the functions’ success?
Challenges & Objectives
Initial challenges were highlighted, and questions posed:
- How has HR changed since the introduction of the Ulrich model, and what does the future look like for a HR Business Partner?
- Talent & succession – how can we retain employees without them reaching a plateau? How can you encourage the business to share good talent? Can an alumni work successfully in getting great talent back into your business, and if so, how?
- Smaller businesses – how can you juggle day-to-day ‘business as usual’ HR with the strategy? How can you be all things to all people?!
- Larger businesses – how can you balance the expertise of local and global HR?
- How can you gain credibility and show value through business outcomes? Is data valuable?
- How do you engage and retain Generation Y client groups?
What is ‘credibility’ and what steps can we take to get there?
Credibility comes through data. You need to be able to prove your results – anything seen to be benefitting the goals of the business, not HR. The data needs to be in context though; otherwise it won’t mean a thing!
To be credible you need to have a mutual understanding with your leadership team. Particularly with smaller businesses – what exactly do they expect from you? You need to be able to focus on the strategy whilst balancing it with the day-to-day activities that arise. With bigger businesses, throw in analytics too!
Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver – this is a sure fire way to lose your credibility! Set the right goals, and be flexible enough to change course where necessary.
Credibility comes through relationship building. Understand who you are partnering with, and their motivations. Some people want lots of data, others want a supportive ear at any time of day! Be aware that one approach does not suit everyone, so be adaptable.
HR has to bring emotional intelligence. Respond to the business needs in the right approach and be able to demonstrate HR’s contribution.
Following the recent economic upturn, the demands on HR is changing. How are you going to demonstrate HR’s value and what are your plans moving forward?
- Sustainable growth. Don’t let leaders get carried away!
- Talent and retention. Create a culture of loyalty and engagement, with comprehensive succession planning for all employees
- Reposition teams so that you have the ability to grow
- Robust competencies. Hire on values, not just experience
- Promote first, recruit second. Reskill from the bottom of the pyramid, and consider apprenticeship schemes to lower the cost of labour
- Consider different strategies for the different generations within the business. Does everyone want steep succession plans? Is a pension important to them or would they prefer a car allowance?
- Be transparent with your strategy!
What does the future look like for a HR Business Partner, and how do we need to adapt?
- HR functions will become more lean with the introduction of Shared Services, so we should be empowering line managers
- The value comes from emotional intelligence
- More consultative – being able to facilitate discussions, build trust and credibility (particularly during strategy meetings, resource planning, etc.)
- Don’t impose uniformity. Different leaders will do things differently, so a flexible approach is more credible
- Meaningful conversations coupled with meaningful data
- Commercial awareness! Many ‘new era’ HR Business Partners are coming from business roles – Finance, IT, etc. whereby they have learnt the intricacies of the business, they understand the strategy and demonstrate a natural commercial awareness. It is then relatively straightforward to transition into a HR BP role if they have the suitable attributes.
The Hot Seat!
At the end of the Think Tank, we ask if there are any particular challenges that a member is facing, and whether the group can offer any tangible advice. One question that was posed was:
The alumni debate: Is it acceptable for talent to leave and then return in later years?
YES – this sends a positive message to employees. Be clear on what the objective of the alumni is. Is it to rehire? Is it for business development purposes?
A useful and innovative suggestion was to create a ‘safe-group’ of companies that you encourage talent to go to, or could complete secondments with to gain additional experience. This works well if they are non-competing organisations. By ‘sharing’ talent for a period of time, they can gain additional skills and exposure that they couldn’t gain with you, and still have the option of returning.
If people are going to go, let them go but keep in touch. They are your best advocates if they leave on a positive note.
MAYBE – it depends on why they left in the first place. If they were underperforming or managed out, would you really want them back? There is a fine line between inviting the right people back, and inviting everyone back! You don’t want to lose credibility, so always look at exit interview data. One suggestion was to have a box on the exit interview sheet/page – “Rehire? Yes / No”
- Whatever HR is doing, it should support the goals of the business. As a HR Business Partner it is important to step back and look at the bigger picture
- The challenges for a HR Business Partner are the same, regardless of sector and size of company
- It is all about trust and credibility. Know your business
- Be flexible! Vary your approach when dealing with different stakeholders, think about the short/medium/long term, etc.
- Be commercial and outcome-driven. Be confident that what you do really does add value, and use data to prove this where possible.
- Stick to your word, and don’t over-promise and under-deliver.