HR as a strategic business partner

HR as a strategic business partner

As I sat down to share thoughts, I recalled a review meeting many years ago where I was asked only three questions. First, what is the current employee count, second, what is the attrition and third, what is the total compensation cost for the company.

The HR function used to be viewed as an administrative role responsible for ensuring employees follow rules and regulations. We were people “who decided salaries in a dark room”! Sitting today at the HCL office, I am convinced that the HR profession has evolved to be seen as a key contributor in organisations where the line leaders have also reshaped their roles to be People Partners.

Every CEO will state that a company’s workforce represents its most potent and valuable resources - people are the lifeblood of organisations. Consequently, his or her role is to ensure that the workforce is engaged and effective as is directly linked to improving the organisation’s competitiveness. Organisations are relying  not only on technology, patents or strategic positions to sustain a competitive edge but also on how their workforce is shaped and deployed.

Central here is the mindset of people being resources- that collectively impact organisational performance and provide a unique source of competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate, according to management writer, J Barney. A focus on resources tends to dilute the importance of organisational capability – by creating a bias to discuss capacity rather than ability. The quality of an organisation’s talent depends on the authenticity with which it is managed making talent management as a discipline a key expectation of line leaders.

The growing appreciation of the work HR does in increasing the value of a company's employees has eliminated erstwhile perceptions of HR practitioners being seen as administrators and people not involved in enabling execution of the business strategy.  HR’s journey to reach the ‘promised land’ where it is considered a strategic business partner is over in organisations where enabling talent management is considered the primary role of line leaders. This leads to HR playing a direct role in determining competitive outcomes.

Building trust

Employees respond directly with the degree of satisfaction with the outcome of the performance review by direct reporting managers and their supervisors. We believe that HR in organisations of tomorrow are stewards for practices such as these and others that have the potential to sustain a culture with policies, processes, programs and services that enhance the passion people bring to work. This truly enhances organisational capabilities which in turn generate delight for the customer and growth for the company. 

We see HR today having the strategic accountability in our business to work with line leaders and translate this passion into energy - to do the right work, build the right skill, be at the right place, collaborate with the right people, expect the right value proposition and apply this with the purpose to deliver the right performance.    
Integrating HR strategy into the line leader accountabilities as a business goal.
We have seen that where line leaders’ partner with HR to align beliefs, intentions, promises and actions and create a culture that reflects alignment to the stated strategy we see increased workforce productivity. This strategic differentiation when co-owned by line leaders and HR leads to organisational growth and increased stakeholder value. 

At HCL, the business outcomes that HR is accountable for demonstrate its role as a strategic business partner ranging from:

Customer experience by delivering to the business strategy to exceed performance
Employee experience by enhancing quality of employee / candidate interactions.
Organisation efficiency by sustaining a strong partnership with the line .

To summarise, HR needs to find identity by building organisational culture and capabilities and jointly own the role of being custodians of the way we work as well as catalysts for growth with line leaders who work as People Partners.

(The writer is the  Chief Human Resources Officer, HCL Technologies)

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