HR departments as effective business partners

The Human Resources (HR) industry has strong roots in fulfilling an organisation’s administrative duties. HR departments grew out of an essential requirement as government laws, employment regulations and employee documentation became increasingly complicated.

Over time, the concept of HR as an administrative arm and personnel department gave rise to a new notion, that people-data was as crucial in business strategy planning as at the management table.     

Catalyst For Change  

The digital age and advent of technologies have streamlined complex processes into incredibly simple tasks, improving how businesses function by leaps and bounds. Technologies such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) have penetrated organisations to allow for digitising administrative duties, harnessing big data on talent and business insights; hence, save vast amounts of resources.

With these solutions in place, HR leaders are then able to gather information on talent sourcing best practices and business forecasting, as well as establish competitive business ROI. This allows them to provide relevant advice to upper management to help with business growths.

In the late 1990s, Dave Ulrich, university professor, author and HR thought-leader came up with a model on people-management best practices for HR. With more than 25 years of research and findings under their belt, his team was – and still is – actively involved in redefining the industry for a new generation. The Ulrich model is based on four key roles:

1. Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP)

The HRBP represents HR and advertises HR services in the organisation while building strategic relationships with internal clients. Their role also extends towards identifying top talents in the industry, providing constructive feedback on the business’ direction and engineering business objectives. An important role of a HRBP is to run functional projects aimed at increasing productivity, cultivating innovation and developing talent.

2. Change Agent

The HR team strategically participates in change management and takes responsibility to communicate changes internally and gain the trust of employees. Change agents plan training sessions to upgrade employee skills, collect feedback from all employees to implement change in process and habits, and plan internal communication materials.

3. Administration Expert

As administration experts, HR personnel control a transactional role. The department has to demonstrate deep knowledge about labour laws, trade union bargaining, how to deal with difficult employees and how to keep personal and company data accurate and, if necessary, up-to-date. Knowledge is the foundation of HR departments because without adequate understanding of the mentioned areas, the team cannot move on to fulfil more strategic roles.

4. Employee Advocate

Being the employee advocate is a core HR role. HR personnel have to represent employees and protect their interests in addition to ensure that the company’s interests are balanced with its values. Fulfilling this role ensures that grievance and compliance procedures are managed, and that a proper training and development framework is built to spur an innovative corporate culture.

As the departments’ administrative and policy processes become increasingly streamlined with the help of technology, HR professionals have greater power to spur the organisation towards higher and continued growth. One way to add vigour to this power is to form strategic relationships with senior and line managers.

HR Business Partners As Strategic Councillors

Apart from being an administrative expert, HRBPs are also a valuable source of knowledge, with their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace. HRBPs understand their business thoroughly, and are able to identify potential talent gaps, key players and market trends. They are thus in a good position to advise C-level executives on how to steer the company towards competitiveness, productivity and innovation.

For a successful partnership, both HRBPs and C-level executives first need to have a clear breakdown of their recruitment gaps, productivity issues, and the kind of human capital they will need for future market situations.

Plans can then be drawn to digitise recruitment platforms, and secure investment in HR data analytics solutions. These steps will ensure that their organisation has the right infrastructure to attract a ready pool of talent.

A combination of good planning and analytics solutions will enable businesses to examine their entire hiring ecosystem and fine-tune their talent acquisition practices. As an end result, organisations can transform themselves from being a reactive entity into one that has the foresight to make better talent-related decisions. 

Additionally, HRBPs have long echoed the need for continued education and training to stay competitive. Continued development provides both the company and its employees with benefits that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment. Consistent training also keeps employees on the cutting edge of industry developments, allowing them to make meaningful business decisions through their course of work.

By harnessing their relationship with internal and external stakeholders, HRBPs gain a deeper understanding of their organisation’s business environment. This vital industry information, derived from their understanding, is then distilled to provide upper management with the insights to develop quality strategies and drive sustainable success for the company.

The HR industry has come a long way. By combining valuable parts of its administrative roots with new insights derived from analytics tools and market research, HR professionals can add value and meaningfully support their organisation from its foundation.