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HR Is Changing.  Are You Ready?


In 1998 I was privileged to attend an HR strategic management course at the prestigious Ashridge Management College in the UK.  I was confronted with an HR function which was dramatically different from what I had been reading up for a long time.  I was required to demonstrate commercial sense, to be professionally agile and to be a business partner.  I spent two weeks at the course and returned to my desk fired up for change.  Alas, my organization was not ready for that change yet.   Soon found myself a ready and willing organization and I moved on.

Why did my old organization send me on that course when they were not ready for the change in HR?  It’s one of two things?  They think they are ready, but when confronted with the change, they suddenly grow cold feet.  Or they sent me on the course to reward me for recent successes scored in cost saving restructuring.  They didn’t really need the altered HR state I was going to come back with.

This is 2015.  The way HR operates and the capabilities that HR people require are radically different.  Despite the fact that business partner roles have been better defined over the past few years, many HR workers are not developing the required capabilities to be effective in these new roles. They are not commercially astute.  They cannot work effectively with data and they have very few specialist skills.

The days where you promoted the oldest secretary to HR manager are over.  At those times, HR people thought their job was to hire and fire. Now, HR managers need to be looking at the long term evolution of the profession when considering their professional development priorities.   If you know what skills you will need in future, you will be more agile and better able to make informed career choices.

More than half of HR departments are going through structural change to enable them contribute effective to the organization.  Most HR department are remaining at the same size, and in 20% of cases, the size of the HR department is increasing.  More HR practitioners understand that people practices influence the value chain.  A key component of HR today is driving change (the 2nd most important HR function).  More than half of HR managers can use data but many of these HR people use such data to draw insights and communicate it to stakeholders to drive competitive advantage.  Many HR practitioner don’t recognize the importance of combining commercial sense and HR expertise.  Time spent working in other departments before rotating into or out of HR is important to building a career for a senior HR professional.

HR has really moved on in the past 5 years.  The business partner model must now be combined with the necessary business skills in order to support the business.  HR has a crucial role to play in bringing unique insights about the organizations people to the business debate and in informing strategic decision making.  HR data and analytics can help to develop a business mindset, informing the people agenda and increase the visibility of HR in the business KPI.  Practitioners need to be aware of how the profession of HR is evolving.