Human Resources as a Strategic Partner

The position of the HR Business Partner has evolved as one of four strategic roles in the book by Dave Ulrich. This book is like the Bible of Human Resources. All HR leaders quickly introduced the model where Human Resources was expected to act as the partner of business leaders. It introduced some chaos into our world because the change was more painful than anticipated in the beginning. Some twenty years later, we have another challenge. We aim to introduce the model of the HR strategic partnership.

The HR Business Partner is a great job; a person in the role can see the positive impact of Human Resources on the organization. She manages and executes critical HR policies and procedures in the close collaboration with internal clients. Also, she shares the responsibility – goals and objectives are the same for the internal customer and the business partner. It all started with the introduction of the business oriented Human Resources function that keeps employees in mind. HR can never be purely business driven; it has to protect the rights and interests of the workforce.

Moreover, David Ulrich also introduced a new HR competency model. He introduced six essential HR competencies that every successful HR professional has to fulfill. They are strategic positioner, credible activist, capability builder, change champion, innovator and technology proponent. Each competency is a game changer in Human Resources because it puts the people management practices into a different perspective (more about six essential HR competencies).

Dave Ulrich changed the passive approach into the active one. He apparently expected HR Managers to become agile promoters of positive shifts in the organization. It was a significant shift in the mindset of HR leaders. Many of them fight with this new role so far. They want to keep the secure compliance position of the department. Being the change agent you have to take and accept risks. You can fail. On the other hand you can win a lot.

Human Resources as a Strategic Partner
Human Resources as a Strategic Partner

The another significant game changer was a dramatic change of the business environment. The globalization (it is also the HR challenge) and the speed of innovations have increased the pressure on leadership teams. They have to predict moves of many competitors; they have to focus on building loyal customer base. They have to allow employees use the creativity.

As a result, leaders have changed their expectations from Human Resources departments. The proactive approach is a must; the competitive advantage is a benefit. The pressure to introduce innovative HR processes and procedures has increased dramatically. Nowaday, we usually call it the HR transformation. The strategic partnership became a new HR buzzword.

We had to return to the six strategic competencies as they were defined by Dave Ulrich. They are the core strengths behind the strategic partnership between HR managers and business leaders. It makes a significant difference – the proactive approach and the business acumen.

The HR organization is at a crossing again. The transformation to the strategic partner is not just about rewriting the job title. It is about a new vision of Human Resources. It is also about another upgrade of skills and competencies.

The HR Manager needs to be proactive to become the member of the strategic planning group. Most organizations have informal groups of employees who decide about the future of the business. The HR professionals have to become the vital member of the core team. No organization has the future without great people management practices.

HR leaders have to make a difficult choice. The road to the future is bumpy. It will not be an easy transformation for most HR employees. They will have to gain new skills and competencies, again. They will have to build trustful strategic partnership with internal clients. They will have to provoke many discussions how the business can enrich its practices. They will have to stand behind their words. It will be a painful period but the new and better HR function will raise.

The next HR Transformation is coming. Now.

We are just at the beginning of the next HR Transformation. HR Big Data, Social Media, and the predictive analytics will bring another level of HR services. We will run deeply customized processes and procedures for many target groups inside organizations. We will directly influence employee engagement of specific audiences because we will be able to identify them.

HR Big Data represent a new great opportunity to improve the performance and productivity of Human Resources. Our data are once again relevant for the business; HR can provide more information than just monthly graphs about the voluntary and involuntary turnover. Together with the predictive analytics HR Big Data can identify painful spots in the organization. Conflicts and weak process points can be discovered and thoroughly discussed in the leadership team.

The predictive analytics in Human Resources is not just about a new piece of the software. It is the automated learning platform that learns from the past. Based on the solution it can also learn from experiences gained in other organizations. The cloud solutions offer new ways how HR can build a sustainable competitive advantage. They will be closely linked to the general HR Big Data implementations, and they can deliver a significant difference compared with other competitors on the market.

Next HR Transformation
Next HR Transformation

Social media gurus present the current online development as the revolution. It is not one; it is just the evolution how we communicate with each other. It does not change the content; it changes and enhances channels. Human Resources gets a very sharp knife with social media. For the first time, we can choose more options that just two we had previously – we can communicate and engage targeted audiences int eh organization and outside of it. Additionally, it is a both ways communication – it is an authentic dialog then.

The granularity of the workforce is another challenging opportunity for Human Resources. Social Media can allow employees to join groups of the common interest. They can form expert panels that can also include resources outside the organization. HR Managers can create other specific groups, and it requires almost no maintenance.

Moreover, the predictive analytics and HR Big Data can identify other specific informal teams in the business that should be heard. They can be silent, but they can be highly innovative and productive. Just their voice is not strong enough today. Can we introduce any better tool to improve employee engagement? It will not impact just a few selected groups of employees; everyone will be heard in the organization again.

The next big transformation of Human Resources begins. We had been a service center in the past. We acted as the business partner and evolved into a strategic one later. Now, we will have to individualize our processes and procedures again.

This all will lead to the transformation of Human Resources. Employees and managers will demand new tailored services provided to them. Right now we build our processes and procedures around hierarchies and social status. As a senior manager, you can decide this and that. As the employee, you can determine just a few things. That is how we work today.

This will change as organizational structures will become less relevant than they are today. We will build our processes and procedures around individuals and weakly defined target groups. It can seem like a complete mess right now, but it will positively influence employee engagement.

Human Resources will become the individualized partner as we will recognize more target audiences in the organization. Employees will expect us to know more about them. HR Big Data and Social Media are a great enabler for this next evolutionary step in the HR history. It is the next transformation.