Could HR Sell Their Services? It’s a Point Well Worth Us Debating

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Sep 6, 2013

There has been a lively discussion on TLNT about my last post, What Would Happen If HR Had to Really Sell Their Services?

It seems to have hit a nerve and generated lots of hypotheses on what might hinder HR’s success in approaching their work as a business.

Based on this dialogue, we actually are already in the middle of this challenge. One comment described how a recruiter was offended when asked to compete with an external firm. Another added thoughts about expectations – those of executive leadership for HR, and those of HR for itself.

What expectations does HR have for it’s own performance? It was interesting commentary.

Even administrative must be strategic

The comment thread that grabbed me the most was about the dichotomy of work in HR and the pool of candidates for HR positions — the dichotomy being administrative vs strategic, and the pool of candidates being those vocationally trained in HR.

Without a doubt, there is a lot of administrative work in HR, and those who are comfortable with the nature of process will gravitate to that work. And that is a GOOD thing because we need expertise and accuracy throughout all HR work.

But even administrative work must have a strategic angle to it. The best example I can think of is in the 1990s as HRIS systems became a necessity rather than a luxury. Is wasn’t just HR, but we automated the same processes we used on paper. And then we delegated data entry without quality checks.

Yes, we need administrators, but shouldn’t part of an administrator’s role be to challenge the process, and ensure quality? At least the top HR leadership should be making that challenge.

Let’s move on to another interesting proposition – hiring HR professionals from throughout the business and then work to develop their HR knowledge.

What is HR strategy, anyway?

Today’s model of specialists (Centers of Excellence) and generalists (Business Partners embedded in the field) offers a great opportunity to test this theory. These business partners, assuming they are outstanding operational leaders in their own right, would have instant credibility with their clients, and, assuming the specialists were knowledgeable, a cadre of experts to make sure they understand the rules of the game.

It would take a strong HR leader to effectively focus this talent on a common vision, but what a powerful team that might be.

This brings me around to the thought about what really is HR strategy? Is being strategic bringing in “best practice” programs and “best in class” technology? Or is HR strategy determining what the business needs in human capital in order to thrive and drive results, and then providing that efficiently and cost effectively? Who better than operational leaders and employees to help define the business needs?

A balanced and well-rounded HR team, with experience in operations and knowledge of the discipline of human resources might have an edge to bring a robust HR business strategy. So, HR needs a variety of expertise and experience, and, a strong leader with a business vision to bring it all together.

Wouldn’t it be great if HR set in motion the steps to be what we see ourselves being?

This originally appeared on the ….@ the intersection of learning & performance blog.

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