UPFRONT New HR – confident, courageous and business savvy

As the “people matter” mantra starts seriously penetrating corporate consciousness worldwide, the role of human resource specialist is also changing – to be both more business oriented and more strategic.
It’s no longer enough for HR to be “strategic partner” in business, says David Hutchins, chair of the US-based Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
“We need to move beyond that and understand we need to be strategic leaders and strategic contributors to organisational success.
“That means we need to be fully involved and actively engaged in establishing business strategy. We need to understand the economic environment in which the organisation operates, bring more business perspective to how people are deployed and utilised in that organisation, and we need to be thinking forward, anticipating change and creating organisational readiness for it.”
And yes, that does mean encouraging HR to take seat at the boardroom table, agrees Hutchins.
“For HR professionals to be successful as strategic leaders, they need to gain access to the board level because boards of directors are making critical and strategic decisions that have human capital implications – and we must be part of that discussion.”
All of which means HR practitioners need to look at broadening both their perspective and their skill base.
Hutchins characterises the perspective shift as moving from “inside-out” to “outside-in”.
In other words, instead of viewing HR needs and practices through the narrow lens of their own speciality, practitioners need to identify, understand and focus on the needs of their specific business and industry.
“That input is then taken into how HR practices are developed within that organisation to meet both its needs and the needs of the people working in it. It’s not HR for the sake of HR but HR for the sake of the organisation.”
Okay, so being HR leader now means having good business knowledge. Yes – but that’s only part of the story.
As the result of extensive research, the SHRM, University of Michigan Business School, and Global Consulting Alliance have come up with competency model for the new HR*.
This identifies five categories of HR involvement:
* strategic contribution (the ability to provide that);
* personal credibility (the capacity to develop effective relations with key people in and outside the organisation);
* HR delivery (knowledge of key HR functions and how they impact on company performance);
* business knowledge, and
* HR technology.
In turn, these competencies demand what Hutchins describes as the seven traits of effective HR leadership. These are:
* confidence (in oneself);
* courage (the ability to step up to the challenge at hand and the opportunities it provides);
* purpose (includes not only acting with sense of purpose but helping employees understand their organisation’s core purpose);
* resilience (ability to bounce back from failure and learn from mistakes);
* flexibility (ability to adapt to change and also build that into organisational culture);
* competence (covers the business nous);
* character (ability to make the right ethical/moral choices).
Hutchins believes HR leaders have tremendous opportunity to take role in restoring the trust and credibility of leadership in business.
“We can be strong models of corporate ethics and corporate responsibility in our role – leaders with character who are able to help our organisations lead with character as well.”
(* Details of the competency toolkit can be found at www.shrm.org/competencies and in Competencies for the New HR Guidebook written by Wayne Brockbank and Dave Urlich)

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