6 Key Qualities Transforming HR as a Strategic Business Partner

November 30, 20158:08 am10680 views

It’s a given that HR professionals are actively involved in many areas of an organization, but where exactly? A recent BLR® survey looks at how HR plays a role in strategic business planning and other key strategic areas.

According to the recent HR Department Survey, the role of HR is soon evolving as a strategic business partner. HR is viewed as a strategic partner by management teams for 33.3% of surveyed participants and as a credible business partner for 25.6%. It’s still viewed as a provider of administrative functions, though, for 35.9% and just not needed for 1.9%.

This survey was conducted on 920 individuals in October 2015, wherein those who identified themselves, 54.3% are privately owned for-profit organizations, 9.1% are public corporations, 15% are government, and 21.6% are not for-profit entities.

Strategic Planning

Over three quarters of the surveyed participants play a role in strategic business planning at their organizations with 36.9% holding a position of influence within their inner circle. HR plays a major role, though outside the inner circle, for 25.7% and at least 27.9% of HR departments play a minor role. HR has no role in strategic business planning for 7.7% (down from 12.4% in 2013) of survey respondents.

Less than half (40.4%) have a formal strategic plan for HR that aligns with the organization’s business objectives. Meanwhile, 11.7% have not developed a strategy for complying with proposed overtime regulations, though 51.8% indicate it will have some impact on their organization.

Other areas where HR is involved include performance management design and implementation (71.4%), coaching management (61.3%), employee engagement initiatives (59.6%), and driving culture (53%).

Some, however, are involved in other activities not as common for HR such as workspace design (20.9%), organization knowledge retention (30.3%), leading growth and innovation (16.1%), and social media updates (11.1%).

Plans and Priorities for HR

According to the survey, HR plans and programs include company culture and next generation recruitment. Management drives culture for 88% and HR occupies the driver’s seat for 45.8%. Interestingly, employees drive culture for a higher percentage (47.3%) than HR.

Recruiting tops the list of high priorities for 59.4% and retention of valued employees comes in next at 49.9%. At 45.3%, improving employee productivity leads the list of moderate priorities with improving employee satisfaction next in line at 43%. Topping the list of low priorities is lowering the administrative burden and supporting employee financial well-being at 33.7% and 31.3%, respectively.

See: HR is Fast Becoming a Strategic Partner in Businesses

According to Jayantee (Mukherjee) Saha, Senior Manager Research Centre Singapore Human Resources Institute, here are six key qualities for HR managers to transform themselves to fit right in the role as a strategic business partner.

In order to brand HR as strategic business partner, HR leaders would need to possess certain qualities. While past accomplishments may be noteworthy, the HR leader should focus on future challenges and business strategies. To develop an influential department, the leader must have the following qualities:

  1. Clarity of thought and sense of direction: HR leaders must be able to see the bigger picture and may work as one of the major growth engines for the organisation.
  2. Business acumen: The word acumen means “keenness and depth of perception, especially in practical matters.” Business acumen is thus, an art that may be cultivated with regular practise. It is an art of linking an insightful assessment of the external business landscape with the keen awareness of how to enhance profitability and then executing the strategy to deliver the desired results.
  3. Patience: In a recent interview for Fast Company magazine, Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft, emphasized the importance of patience for succeeding in business. He explained that products and businesses go through three phases: vision, patience, and execution. And he said the patience stage is the toughest and most uncomfortable.
  4. Fairness: In a turbulent global economy, the dilemma among the business and HR fraternity continues especially in cases when the decision is either to indulge in unfair practices, implement short-term strategies and quick fixes, or to take a patient, long-term approach towards sustainable development. Though there is always a freedom of choice, the consequences are usually correlated to the path that either the business or HR chooses.
  5. Self- discipline: HR leaders will normally be confronted with situations requiring negotiation. Self-control is the essence of negotiation. In his piece of work titled, “The art of self-control a key to success” published by Harvard Business School Publishing, author William Ury (cofounder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation) states, “When negotiating, especially when discussions are emotionally charged, the best strategy comes in not reacting. Focus on your own objectives and how you can best achieve them, and step back from the situation as needed to gain new perspective. The greatest obstacle is not the opposition; it is ourselves.”
  6. Risk-taking ability: Risk taking is an integral part of business and life. It is thus, quite relevant for HR leaders to take calculated risks in dealing with people and impacting the bottom line of the business.

Overall, the road map for HR becoming more of a strategic partner seems clear both with respect to what it needs to do to be involved in a variety of strategic activities and to become a full strategic partner.

HR needs to organize itself such that the skills and expertise can be harnessed at the organisational level. It needs to use metrics and analytics to measure the impact of its human resource management initiatives and practices implemented at different stages across the organisation value chain.

Also read: Why HR Should Be Involved in Planning a Business’s Strategy

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