This week I attended a seminar entitled “HR Strategy and the Role of the HR Business Partner.” I was really looking forward to it and hoped to get a clearer insight into what an HR Business Partner was and what they did. What a disappointment!
My key takeaways from the evening were:-
- There was no clear identification of what the role entailed; it varies from organisation to organisation.
- Results where business partners had been introduced were mixed and generally the business response seemed to be unenthusiastic. There even seemed to be some doubt as to whether the concept would last.
- Even the case studies illustrated that significant communication problems persisted.
The elephant in the room was gap between “business” expectations of HR and how they saw the role and how HR saw their own role. This was specifically identified and yet no effort was made to address it or to identify how or what was being done to close the gap. Surely that has to be a primary function of HR partners? Perhaps, therefore, it was hardly surprising that the discussion revolved around generalities. The speakers talked about “strategies”, “measurements” and “the need to understand the business”, without giving any tangible examples of what they meant or how they were really adding value.
Consequently my lasting impression from the evening was that, “Nobody, including HR themselves, actually knows what HR is or what it stands for.” All HR professionals think what they do is important. Yet they seem to be incapable of proving it. If they did that gap would not exist. It is entirely of their own making.
To say this is ironic is the understatement of the year. But the irony is magnificently magnified by the fact that it is so unnecessary: the role of HR should be obvious to everyone. Let me explain why.
Any organisation exists for a reason: it has to have a purpose. In order to fulfil that purpose it has to have some idea of how to go about things. That is called the strategy. But strategy consists of two parts; development or planning and execution or implementation.
A strategy that is not executed is simply a dream. Now Webster’s Dictionary tell us that the word “execute” is derived from the Latin ‘ex’ out and ‘sequere’ to follow, and means “to follow through to the end; to complete; to effect; to perform; to do what is required.” Thus execution requires people. It is impossible to execute without people.
This makes people a – perhaps even the - key strategic resource. Thus it should be self-evident that it is HR’s role to ensure that it provides, maintains and develops this strategic resource to execute the organisational strategy.
Only when you properly and fully align individual, team and organisational goals can you deliver a total strategy. Thus HR should play an essential role in executing strategy. If HR understands this, and can articulate it effectively, there should be no confusion about their role and the gap in understanding can be closed for once and for all.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, a company created to help larger small to large business organisations to properly value their people and thereby inspire them to optimise their self-worth and so engage them that they transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”