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 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
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
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.
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
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.