Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Is HR Really Becoming More Strategic

This week's blog post is written by a dear friend and colleague of mine, Ed Nangle. Ed is President of Corporate Management Consulting, Inc.  Ed has tons of HR wisdom as he has seen many changes in our profession over the years.  

Having been in the human resources profession since the beginning of time (well almost!), for many years I was doubtful if HR would truly ever be viewed by most business leaders as more than a transactional hub and a place to dump all their “people problems”.  Those of you that really know me might even say I was more than doubtful.  The word pessimistic comes to mind.  Even as I saw many companies moving to the “business partner” model, I continued to scratch my head and wonder if we were really making progress.  Listening to my students who were in shared service environments that were mired in service problems (Center of Excellence…really???) contributed to my doubt.  And, although many of them were providing business support to their functional areas, I heard them describing environments that still sounded like silos to me.

I can recall many debates on this topic with my business partner (aka my spouse Charlette).  She continued to tell me that I was working in too narrow of a world…not really understanding that there were HR professionals and companies out there that were truly making progress…putting their human resources departments where they should be…in decision-making roles that really impact the bottom line.  As I look back now, perhaps she was right.  After taking an early-out from corporate life, I spent the last 17 years teaching HR Certification classes.  Although over the years I have met many very talented HR professionals in my classes, many were in the early stages of their careers or even what I would call “wanna be’s”.  I mean no disrespect to all of the hard working individuals I have taught over the years.  This is more of self-criticism…perhaps I spent the last 17 years in my own silo!

Although being a major planner by nature, I’m still amazed at that path my professional life has taken.  What I thought was my last career gig, turned out to be just another stop-over in the journey.  Awhile back I partnered with my long-time friend and colleague, Cathy Missildine of Intellectual Capital Consulting, to deliver an educational program to a client.  The topic was moving their HR department from transactional to strategic. Because we had such a positive response, we decided to take the show on the road.  In my mind the major marketing point was the fact that our workshops provide 12.5 strategic HRCI re-certification credits.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who are attending because they are ready and eager to become business leaders in their organizations and, for them, the credits are just the icing on the cake.  I am even more encouraged by the number of workshop attendees that are working in organizations that truly see the value of HR as an integral partner in meeting strategic business results.  And understanding that only happens through HR leadership that demonstrates the competencies and business acumen to make that happen.

So are we there yet?  We still meet many people in our workshops that voice frustration at their inability to convince senior leadership that there are ways of accomplishing the necessary transactional responsibilities that free up HR leadership to have impact on things that truly produce business results.  But by the end of our couple of days together, many go away with new plans and goals of how to make this happen.  It has been such a rewarding experience to hear people say, “I know what this means now, and I have the tools to start the journey.”  So my answer is YES…I can see us moving in the right direction and it is amazing and exhilarating.  Take some advice from an “old dog”…you can learn new tricks.  Get out of your own silo…and make your own plan to sharpen your competencies and business acumen and get up from the table and make something happen!  
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