Over the past decades, scores of human resources managers have proven themselves to be business leaders and have been accepted as equal partners with line managers when it comes to developing organizational and business strategy. As such, failure to achieve an equal seat at strategy tables may have more to do with the human resources department itself than one might be ready to admit. It is quite possible that human resources analysts, the very staff who carry out your mission, are still holding on to the traditional, transactional mindset and require retraining before your department can truly evolve into a strategic business partner.
Traditional versus New Roles of HR
Traditional HR professionals focus on recruiting, training, pay, and industrial relations. These functions are transactional in nature and are typically measured in volume. Most human resources departments still focus on the transactional parts of their job - filling vacancies, maintaining employment records, and running open enrollments.
However, if the HR department wants to be seen as a business partner, the entire HR staff must understand what being a business partner means, and every member of the HR department should be involved in the process. Internal HR consulting embodies an array of knowledge, a set of defined skills, a shift in attitudes, and a new way of thinking about HR's role. Strategic, consultative HR professionals focus on the strategy and the culture of the organization and contribute in creative ways to influence productivity and effectiveness. Many HR leaders give up on their employees even before initiating a shift in approach for fear of such issues as:
- most HR people have not worked outside of the HR function;
- most do not have the background in information technology; and
- most do not have business degrees.
A Methodical Approach for Developing Your HR Team
A methodical approach to developing HR staff for this role includes the following elements:
- Clearly defined jobs for internal HR consultants: The traditional job of the analyst is redefined to include consultative skills. This may include a redesign of the HR professional's career path within the organization.
- Strategic missions for the HR department that include consultative approaches
- Formal training programs for internal HR consultant staff development
- Feedback on performance, including consultative skills
- Individual development planning based on feedback: Analysts in the training program should receive feedback on their current consulting skills. In turn, HR staff professionals should create individual development plans for improving these consulting skills.
- Coaching, mentoring, and continual feedback on consultative skills
- Job rotation: Internal HR consulting requires the HR professional to understand all processes and systems within the HR department. Job rotation is an effective method for learning these systems and processes and for building team cooperation and support.