The Transition of HR........from Task Master to Strategic Advisor
As HR professionals, we all know how our role has transformed over the past decade. In the past, we were never thought of as agents of change. In fact, most companies used their HR department as a clerical pool hired to recruit employees, help them complete benefit and new hire paperwork, provide reports to managers, and police employee dress code and behavior.
Through the years, it has become increasingly obvious that HR is not only the apparel “cop” and the “good listener,” but also the manager’s most trusted resource. It seems that by error, the HR department grew into a value-added service provider for their organizations. The growth from tactical to strategic practices also weeded-out those HR professionals who couldn’t make the transition, giving way to certification organizations like HRCI (Human Resource Certification Institute) and professional organizations like SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management).
Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society is the leading provider of resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates.
Over the past 5 decades, laws pertaining to interviewing, hiring and terminating employees created new risks for companies. The accountability of mitigating those risks was then handed to the HR department to manage. In turn, HR has had the responsibility for increasing their knowledge base and capability to protect their employer from foreseen and unforeseen risks.
It is only over the past 2 decades that HR has been viewed as a resource worthy of sitting at the strategic planning table. “It was discovered when HR is strategic and involved with and/or linked to organizational performance, it plays an important role in the success of an organization.” (Aligning Human Resources and Strategic Planning -Righeimer, Maverick Energy)
In March of 2015, “Great Place to Work®,” Chief Executive Officer, China Gorman had these three action items to offer on transforming HR into a strategic function.
First, have HR operate as a business strategy function, not a tactical compliance unit. This means having a different language and different operating structure, so that you become integral and not a separate thing.
Second, create a reputation for providing talent-related business solutions, not roadblocks, to the desired business outcomes. So, that takes the risk mitigation piece away. Let the general counsel do that. Be a partner in providing solutions so that the others in the organization know that if I go to HR with an issue, they are going to help me speak about the answers as opposed to telling me what I can’t do.
And third, to make sure that HR speaks the language of your business, not the language of HR. When you talk to marketing and you talk to sales and you talk to finance, they’re mostly talking the language of business. Inside their departments, they talk the language of their function. But once they are talking to the business, they talk the language of business; and I think that HR could do a much better job of that.
The Chart below gives us insight into how the Human Element of HR, when merged with the Strategic Element of HR, created a center of excellence surrounding business practices and employee performance. Out of these two main elements, we end up with three areas of focus; Direction, Org Design and Engagement:
- To align executives, managers and employees, everyone must know the Vision and Mission of the company. In previous blogs I have written, I stress these two things often. Everyone in the organization must work toward “living the mission” and “seeing the vision.”
- Companies talk a lot about their values, yet they don’t walk the talk. It is HR’s role to reaffirm company values. This applies to new employees and existing employees. Just like a family affirms their family values; values are practiced day to day. Everyone from the CEO down to the line staff needs to know and practice workplace values.
- Objectives and Strategies are born out of the corporate boardroom and often left at the door. It is HR’s role to sit at the strategic planning table as a representative of business and a representative of the employees. It is often thought that a thin line exists between business activities and employee activities. When we ensure employees are fully informed and inline with corporate directives, that thin line should be almost impossible to see.
- HR needs to ensure they leave the boardroom with the priorities necessary to communicate key programs and to plan for resource allocations. Managers will rely heavily on HR to help them identify the right new resources, provide training where there is a knowledge and skill gaps and communicate the objectives to their employees.
- In order to provide exactly what is needed to address the alignment of Goals and Metrics, HR is required to work very closely with managers and department heads to understand the goals and how those deliverables cascade down to each employee in the company.
- Org Design:
- Structure is very important. Workplace structure is the way individual departments and managers within an organization collaborate with one another to achieve workplace objectives. HR should be the facilitator of communication to make sure this collaboration is happening. To be aligned means that all channels of communication are open. Collaboration between departments is essential in achieving strategic goals.
- Every employee should understand their piece of the project. This is best accomplished by providing clear job descriptions and by closely defining each employee’s role…….. which directly affects the goals assigned to them. It is HR’s responsibility to work with managers to develop job descriptions that outline the areas of responsibility for each role. Companies that have not developed clear job descriptions, risk hiring individuals with skill gaps, education gaps and training needs.
- Assessing competencies goes hand-in-hand with skill gap analysis. The best way to continually track competencies is by using a performance management system that allows managers to notate areas where an employee is experiencing difficulties. The system should also have a good coaching component that allows for continual feedback when addressing performance improvement or skill gap concerns. Where many performance management systems fail is in the identification of employees who have the potential to contribute at a much higher level and……. who, if managed effectively, could be given additional tasks based on their potential.
- HR can assist business unit managers by ensuring the management process is available to everyone. Management process is defined as “a process of setting goals, planning and/or controlling the organizing and leading the execution of any type of activity.” Process management is often referred to as the process of performance management. Ensuring these processes are in place creates greater alignment between management’s objectives and employees’ performance.
- Business process governance involves setting standards and priorities for BPM (Business Process Management) efforts, identifying BPM governance leaders and defining BPM project participants’ roles, all to improve BPM strategies. HR can facilitate this process by opening the lines of communication, both written and verbal to create greater alignment between business processes and workflow (the series of activities that are necessary to complete a task)
- An important part of Organization Design is to initiate an incentive and rewards program. HR should work directly with business managers to design incentive plans that reward performance when meeting or exceeding predetermined goals. When rewards are tied directly to goal accomplishment, the issue of subjectivity is removed, making the incentive plans totally performance based. Since HR is challenged with retention, especially retention of high performers, programs that recognize and reward those who exceed expectations are essential to organizational design.
- The last phase of Organizational Design is Culture. Culture is the way the organization lives and breathes. But it can also be the way an organization dies. Having a seat at the strategic planning table, allows HR to be a key influencer of the image an employer creates…….. not only for its current employees, but also for its future employees and its customers.
- There is a consistent need for organizations to identify and maintain highly potential employees who can be groomed for Leadership roles. Retaining knowledge base and increasing core capabilities of existing staff is a key performance indicator for HR professionals.
- Team Effectiveness is critical to organizational alignment. The same goals that are cascaded from the C-Suite to the Department Managers must also continue their roll down hill to team members who are responsible for carrying out projects and tasks. When team deliverables are misaligned with corporate goals, no one is working toward the same outcomes. When HR assists managers with the alignment process of cascading goals, each employee is empowered with the information they need to be successful. Successful employees = a successful company.
- Commitment is a human element that comes from within. But, it’s also a two-way street. To get commitment, a company has to give commitment. Communicating agreed upon goals is a way to grow commitment from both sides. Employees who understand what is expected of them, and who are given the tools necessary to complete the projects, have a greater level of commitment to overall corporate goals. HR becomes the conduit to ensure the necessary tools are available for success.
- Motivation is another characteristic that is born from within. We have all heard the saying “Motivation can’t be taught.” It’s an inspiration, a stimulus or a drive. But motivation can be spurred especially in high potential employees. HR should work with managers to identify high potential employees who have a strong need to be inspired. Creating enthusiasm by assigning high potentials to high level projects is one way to keep them motivated.
- I can’t say enough about Communication. We talk all the time, but we don't communicate the critical pieces of the business. An article from Inc. Magazine, May 2015, 14 Best Practices for More Effective Communication, sums it up quite well. “As the leaders of their organizations, CEOs are expected to effectively communicate with their stakeholders, customers and employees. Always being in the spotlight, however, requires a certain communicative skill set. You have to ensure that employees are happy and that everyone feels like they're in the loop on key company happenings too. In essence, it's your job to set the tone for the entire organization.”
- To be aligned, all employees must be Involved. With today’s tight schedules and co-workers wearing many hats, it’s difficult to keep everyone involved on a one-on-one basis. If your performance management system is not allowing you to have a dynamic cycle of feedback and continual collaboration with your employees, then it is time to look for a tool that can breathe fresh air into your organization’s performance management process. HR can be a huge champion in the process of identifying tools that make it easier for managers and employees to communicate project statuses, individual performance and change management.
- Trust/Respect: Although trust and respect seem to be an expected workplace norm, that isn’t always the case. Trust and respect are earned at all levels of the company…from the CEO all the way down to every level of employee. HR can assist in facilitating trust and demanding respect. Although these two values seem inherent to all, they are not. Pay Mayfield from Pat Mayfield Consulting, LLC in San Francisco, offers his advice to business leaders on how to build Trust:
- Ask the hard questions to build and protect the company.
- Listen and consider others' ideas with an open mind.
- Focus on issues and solutions rather than personalitites.
- Set the example, by being responsible and accountable.
As HR professionals, we can live with the stereotypes created for us decades ago or we can
decide to take our seat at the strategic planning table. A company’s resources, their skills and their effectiveness shape a company’s foundation for success. There are tools available that help HR professionals project and present the “state of performance.” Managing performance is a science. In its best form, performance management can be a tremendous tool in keeping everyone aligned.
Talent acquisition, talent development and talent utilization drive the strategic process …………HR makes it possible.