Make the Case for a HR Business Partnership

By Lisa Cheong

In a time when improving work productivity is everything, it comes as no surprise that HR departments are shrinking in size. While the old HR departments were staffed with personnel administrators tasked to perform administrative tasks, companies are now outsourcing these tasks to cheaper locations, cheaper vendors or simply making them more efficient through the use of information technology systems. So what are some ways to become more effective and strategic in your job?

 

1) Get an outsider’s take

Take the time to understand how the company and how the senior managers perceive HR and its business value. To obtain a 360-degree view of how the HR function is perceived, request for time with decision makers, such as the CEO, CFO and other heads of departments to understand their job priorities, work and manpower-related challenges. These conversations will enable you to get a deeper understanding of how the HR function can improve to provide better business value to the company.

 

2) Save your (company’s) time and money

Reduce your amount of administrative HR clutter. You can do this either by buying an information technology system, building upon an existing one or outsourcing the process out to a vendor. Some of the usual time-consuming functions companies often manage include payroll, attendance and pay leave. Automating certain HR processes can empower line managers as well. Instead of paper leave systems where employees fill out paper forms stating their reasons for leave, an online e-leave application system that gives approval control to managers will increase managers’ say and control over their departments. It also speeds up the leave approval process too.

Due to the economies of scale, bigger companies obviously stand to gain greater benefits from outsourcing. But that is not to say that small companies will not benefit at all. An American survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management found 89 percent of HR practitioners customers reporting that outsourcing helped significantly reduced the time it took to for HR practitioners to perform HR transactions. Companies with less than nine employees said they saved seven hours on HR transactions per week saved, while organisations with more than 100 employees saw the greatest benefits with savings of more than 48 hours each week.

 

3) Generate higher retention levels

In the current war for talent, one of HR’s most valuable service to the business is helping raise employees’ retention rates. Replacing an exiting employee can be expensive, costing anywhere from 30 to 250 percent of an employee’s annual compensation after one takes factors in figures such as a loss in business performance, customer satisfaction and the cost of recruitment and staff on-boarding.

When developing retention plans, one trap HR practitioners and business partners fall into a trap thinking that employees are solely driven by money. Although it is true that money ranks as a high priority, many are also driven by other factors such as a fulfilling job, work-life flexibility, job autonomy and having a good supervisor. In order to develop a retention programme that works, one must first get to the bottom of what really appeals to the employees. If you have a company full of young Gen Y workers, introducing flexi-work hour scheme may not appeal to their needs and goals. Similarly, subsidizing gym or club benefits may not sit well with the more mature workers in your company.

 

4) Talent development is in your hands

As companies struggle to fill their leadership gaps, HR practitioners should take active steps in engaging high-potentials, while carving out a long-term succession pipeline for the company.

A good talent management programme first needs a benchmark on which companies can choose future leaders and high-potentials. By examining the common traits and values of the company’s bestperforming employees, HR practitioners can help use this to create a blueprint for the high-potential selection process. By seeking out potential leaders and managers, and investing more time, effort and training dollars in this group of people, it helps highly-driven employees define a career path for them within the company while engaging them at the same time.

HR practitioners can also use information system tools to help in their talent management role, making it easier for them to automate and streamline talent management processes such as applicant tracking and goals management. The use of performance management tools can also help line managers execute performance reviews, career and succession plans, while aligning employees’ career goals.

Coaching and mentoring leaders and middle-managers is also an effective way of raising the organisations’ leadership capabilities. As the business landscape becomes more complex, helping leaders improve on their soft skills and navigate through tricky work decisions will become an valuable HR service to the business.

 

5) Improve your HR skills

Becoming a successful business partner may entail strategic thinking on issues such as change management and organizational development. For some HR practitioners, the ability to perform at a management level would require an upgrade in their business skills and proficiencies.

One good way is to attend short business classes or undertake Executive MBA courses where you can learn more about the business undertakings that go beyond the HR cubicle. Another way would be to improve on your soft skills such as negotiation tactics and presentation skills.

 

Conclusion

When trying to win top management buy-in, always keep in mind hat any value HR brings to the table should always have a tangible benefit to the business. Keep in mind the perennial question lodged in the back of your senior management’s minds: “What’s in it for us?”.

Whether it is a lower attrition rate, a higher employee engagement rate or a higher level of customer service, always sell your proposals and ideas as something which would help your company achieve its organisational goals.

But becoming a strategic HR business partner is not something that can be achieved overnight. Rather, it is a long and hard-won journey in winning the support and validation of your company’s senior management and employees alike.

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