Why HR pros are increasingly becoming strategic partners in business

  • career advice
  • April 28, 2017
Human resources is at the core of any business. Few decisions corporate leaders make do not have an HR component in the framework. As a result, HR pros are increasingly coaching senior leaders to ensure they have the right person in the right role doing the right things.

A company can't grow, innovate, thrive and gain personal employee commitment without a great HR foundation. “The HR leader in an organization has a seat at the table and is increasingly valued,” said Ed Coyle, vice president Randstad Professionals, human resources. “These HR professionals are involved in every aspect of the company.”

“HR leaders are attending and participating in business meetings so that they can more effectively understand how their decisions impact the business,” added Jonna Cottrell, executive recruiter in human resources at Randstad Professionals in Chicago.

So what changed?

In the past, HR leaders did not necessarily influence the business. Instead, they focused exclusively on operational HR processes and transactions. “The HR profession has come a long way since the days of the personnel office, focused primarily on processing documentation for employee hiring, administration and separation,” said Bettina Deynes, SHRM-SCP, vice president of human resources and diversity at the Society of Human Resources Management.

Why the shift? With the national unemployment rate at just 4.5 percent and 2.7 percent for college graduates, many companies need to get more out of the HR function. “It’s hard to lose good people now,” Coyle said. “You must have a plan to keep them progressing in their careers. It’s bad for business to lose talented people in this market.”

Coyle added, “If you’re looking at employee retention and development, you have to let HR in the room to see what the challenges and opportunities are. If HR is an integral part of the business, then employers can recruit more effectively and plan development. They can really see what’s needed.”

Take advantage of opportunities

How can HR pros who have served as generalists step up to support the business on more strategic issues? Roll up your sleeves and get involved in real business issues in your current job. Experts advise more junior HR professionals to volunteer for cross-functional initiatives, such as major IT infrastructure roll-outs.

In addition, Deynes advises budding HR strategic partners to seek training and development opportunities. “Let everyone in their organization know that they have competencies that can be invaluable in solving problems and creating opportunities,” she said.

A new type of HR job candidate

Because companies are increasingly recruiting HR professionals who can play a more strategic role, employment experts say they are observing different types of individuals entering the profession. For example, someone who has served as a financial analyst for several years and then decided that job isn’t challenging any longer can move into a strategic HR role. “That’s the risk the company takes,” Coyle said. “It knows the individual, and the financial analyst knows the business inside and out. The firm is willing to take a chance to keep his or her career moving along with the company.”

Companies that recognize this shift in the HR function can attract higher caliber employees, too. “I often speak with HR pros who only want to work for an organization that is willing to embrace HR as a strategic partner,” Cottrell added. “Organizations that have this approach often address it in the interview process — they want to hear concrete examples of how an interviewee has established rapport with business leaders in prior organizations.”

HR professionals are increasingly becoming strategic partners in their businesses. And as this is good news for HR pros since most organizations need these vital partnerships. By building relationships throughout the organization, HR professionals can more effectively help managers with talent acquisition and employee relations, mitigate litigation risks and improve awareness of business goals among managers and throughout the workforce.
 
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