The changing role of HR leaders

Being helpful:

I was inspired listening to Margaret Heffernan at the CIPD Conference Keynote in November 2016. She said that: “In my experience, the only transformations that have worked are the ones where everyone helped everybody, and nothing less will do, you want to build a company where everyone works with everyone.”

When it comes to problem-solving and improving ideas, products and services, Margaret presents evidence that a culture of helpfulness “routinely outperforms individual intelligence”. I agree with this and our role as HR professionals can help support this transformation, for me, personally and professionally this is the best move that companies can make. Helpfulness is now part of strategic HR. How fantastic is that! We now know this, so it is up to us to make sure this plays out in our day to day roles, not only for ourselves, but how we encourage everyone else to be more helpful.

To make our landscape more challenging, (I think we all secretly like a challenge!) the HR profession is used to being sharply criticised, some believing the HR function should be split in two (operational and strategic). The typical complaint is that HR is too bureaucratic, too administrative, and not innovative enough; HR professionals are not well enough aligned with the business and lack the analytical skills to make data-driven decisions.

Extreme makeover:

Apparently, HR is in need of an extreme makeover, some HR skills are still weak, companies are not spending enough on developing HR professionals (are we are too focused on everyone else?!)  and HR itself can be too focused on service delivery and not enough on building consulting skills.

Light at the end of the tunnel:

The good news is that recent Deloitte research shows an improvement in HR organisations’ skills, business alignment, and ability to innovate. While HR leaders still have significant work to do, they are adapting more quickly now to changing business demands. I think we know this; we know what we need to do, it’s how we show this to the businesses we work in and it’s about educating them of our abilities and vision as HR professionals, getting them to trust in our vision and supporting us in delivering it.

HR leaders are moving away from a “service provider” mentality to becoming valued talent, design, and employee-experience consultants with significant progress in the areas of employee engagement, culture, analytics, and the adoption of cloud-based HR technology. While HR teams still face daunting challenges ahead (let’s not mention the B word for now), a new generation of inspired HR leaders is entering the profession, and the progress is real.  We are starting to fulfil our destiny.

We need to take our future into our own hands:

 That said, we still need to continue to push our boundaries, as HR professionals we need to see our role as change agents and business enablers, so really business people that work through people. I am not a fan of the ‘HR’ term, I am even less a fan of ‘personnel’ and the truly awful ‘human capital’ word. We are and need to position ourselves as business leaders that enable businesses to grow in the right way.

We are not ‘just’ transactional and process driven, we are creative, innovative, commercial and market driven, just like the other leaders in the business, we need to position ourselves alongside our finance director counterparts and get the recognition we deserve, as we are capable and have the power to make the biggest improvements to the business (compared to our peers). We know that employees make businesses successful and we are in the driving seat to make this happen, right?

How will you stand out in 2017?

HR is turning the corner and proving more tangibly now the value to bottom line, we are becoming innovative consultants with a broader responsibility to design, simplify, and improve the entire employee and candidate experience. Our HR teams are more focused on innovation, analytics, and the rapid adoption of cloud and mobile technologies to make the working experience better.

That said, we can also be our worst enemy. We need to really showcase our value, get our voices heard and show the real difference ‘HR” can make to any company. Our futures lie in our ability to evolve to improve culture and engagement, build a new generation of leaders, and leverage technology to implement digital HR and design thinking. Only in this way can we enhance the employee experience and build the companies that will survive as well as really fulfilling the role we all chose to do, that is ‘to make a difference and be helpful’.

Rebecca Bull

Founder and owner of My HR Hub,