The anatomy of business driven, strategic HR

It is time for HR to step out of its comfort zone and make its way boldly into the customers’ business. This would create a much more business driven HR, which would be customer oriented, competitive and strategic.

Strategic human resource management is changing. Many companies don’t use the words human resource anymore, because they say that this definition underrates people and assimilates them to other, less valuable commodity resources like energy or other consumables. I think this word game is pointless and the word resource is still legitimate in some connections, as long as it does not lead to people being considered as merely pairs of hands. People are resources in the sense that we may use their skills, wisdom and capacity as valuable assets to make things happen in our customer’s business. Wikipedia’s definition is appropriate. It states that a resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced. Indeed, human resources create benefit and value to our customers.

Almost every company has its HR processes in place. If not perfectly aligned with business’ needs, but most likely the basics are outlined. In my opinion traditional HR processes are multiple but they are relatively simple to develop and maintain. People-flows, performance management, competence management. Check. Compensation and benefits. Check. But what then?

I took part in a recruitment company’s survey today. They asked which part of the recruitment process is so hard for us, that we would consider using external help. Options were: formulating the role description, posting the ad to relevant recruitment channels, answering the applicants, interviewing, and so on. None of these are hard, none of these are too much to handle for our HR team, or should be too much for any HR team. What is hard is finding the true talents, attracting them so much that they would answer our call/e-mail, even meet us at some point… This calls for marketing. This means HR should stop spending time on writing perfect role descriptions and rather start marketing the attractive workplace and competitive career opportunities. This means connecting and working together with marketing people, learning their skills and getting to know their networks and ways of working.

Another viewpoint which is relatively new for HR is that of the customer and their business. Typically we do our homework about our own business and competencies we deal with, but how much do we really know about and understand our customers’ problems. A little, or not at all, would be the honest answer. But how can we be good in hunting the right talent, if we have no idea what kind of value our talents/resources/people would bring to our customers business? There are more attributes to talent than just the flawless CVs we like to read. Interaction with sales and business management is the bare minimum for HR to learn about the customers. Ideally, HR should interact directly with customers to generate genuine insight on which kind of resources or human assets are needed to maximize the customer benefit. Today and tomorrow.

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Kristiina Burtsoff