Corporate strategies were often opportunity based. They are now more and more resource based. Among the relevant resources, human resources are indisputable. If you don’t have the proper expertises or know how, implementation will be difficult if not impossible.
Sometimes you can source, or outsource these resources, but there will be a lead time to get this resource efficiently acquainted with the company and at ease with people, new network, different processes and decision making.
This brings HR upfront and reinforces its “ business partner” dimension.
Among the key success factors of HR, business acumen will become a priority. Without such a quality, strategy understanding, credibility, legitimacy will be low. This means clearly that HR has to speak the different languages of the business and of its internal clients: marketing, finance, management, organisation, technology, production…How anyone can deliver the right service if he/she does not understand his /her clients? Very few HR VP or staffs have such a comprehensive managerial and business culture, except those coming directly from the business to an HR position. On the contrary, the apparent complexity of HR technicalities, refrains people from contacting them and developing cooperation. HR becomes a silo of its own.
Let us suppose HR becomes a real business partner, then they can provide sophisticated services like internal consulting and coaching. They can help colleagues on many issues like “where are the resources/expertises needed for this project», «what is the best organisation” “where are the decision makers on this issue”, “is anybody else in charge of this type of project”, “is there a best practice”…HR becomes client focused, understands and contributes.
This means they are managing relevant data on people and the organisation, like do large consultancy firms. Who can do what, where, how!
But traditionally, because of their supposed people focused culture, HR is less familiar with new IS technologies, including HRIS and managing date, data mining, communication technologies; they will have to learn and fill comfortable, the new digital natives generations can help. Ability to implement a learning Management System is a plus.
Doing new things means that HR will have to let go some traditional activities, or delegate or outsource. In many countries, and frequently in Latin countries in Europe, social regulations represent an impressive load of work for HR. Compliances on many issues is a daily headache for HR. These constraints represent no real added value for the corporations. HR has to do it or they face legal problems. But this does not bring any competitive advantages to the company, as every corporation has to comply.
For all these constraints an outsourcing/Management facility solution might bring fresh air for HR and time to take care of more strategic challenges, such as talent management, or governance.
Anticipating the future needs for talents, identifying the gaps to fill, the redundancy, the obsolescence of past expertises will bring light for the CEO suite and future EXCOM decisions.
Setting up the provision and development of talents with the appropriate services, corporate universities, leadership programmes or the like, with all the new learning technologies and approach, becomes a key factor of success for the company and its employers brand image.
Auditing governance and organisation can save a lot of hard times. If the Board does not know how to define its specific missions to implement relevant subsidiarity and avoid mission conflicts and redundancies, this can create an underperforming organisation based on confrontations more than cooperation. This might not be the easiest job of HR, but if done properly it can be a considerable plus for the company.
Very few CEO expects such advices from HR to be honest. And in some case it can be dangerous for HR. Nobody said HR is a safe place!
European Latin countries have extensive and complicated social regulations, changing often with political decisions and unions lobbying. Keeping update is a job in itself, and one can understand that most of HR energy is focused on social/legal regulations evolutions, taking HR away of its real and useful strategic contribution.
In a nutshell if HR wants to stay ahead, the following skills have to be developed:
- Business acumen and comprehensive managerial knowledge
- A true client focused service with consultancy expertise
- Data management knowledge
- HRIS and new technologies knowledge including LMS
- Outsourcing and facility management
- Talent management and development
- Governance and organisation expertise
The next question is what is the best profile for an HR VP?
Depending on the type of business of the company it can vary.
If highly technical, an engineering background plus an MBA degree can help, as the person in charge will have to deal with engineers, or technicians, and will need the understanding of their jobs. This is true of the pharmaceutical business where most senior managers are Doctors.
If mostly in the service business, a good knowledge of the field might be a sound requirement (finance for a bank, or an insurance company), as these jobs are also highly regulated.
A good MBA might be interesting for HR in the field of retailing, or within corporations intensive in selling and advertising in consumer goods.
For public corporations, the understanding of legal aspects is a must, and a law degree, or a specific civil servant education is necessary.
In all cases, adding to the first degrees a specific training in HR will give a plus. But if these people have a successful experience of management in the company, they already master 50% of what is needed.
The position becomes an opportunity for personal and professional development leading few years after to another top position within the company.
Who wants to stay now all his/her life in the same job, anyway?