Authored by: Laci Loew
uly 27, 2015

In no area is change more needed than in HR. Changing demographics, exploding utilization of mobile/social/video, growing global economies, thinning of requisite skills and experiences, and, for some, ever narrowing profit margins, mean HR/talent teams have a pressing new mission: increase leadership engagement.

Increasing leadership engagement means getting the right talent and keeping those folks moving in the strategic direction of the business — enabling leaders’ capability to coach others and embrace diverse thinking, and nurturing a culture of collaboration, innovation and forward planning. The new order is straightforward; its implementation is not. Implementation starts with a new HR.

HR reinvention requires a “new” HR Team – a team that is forward looking and acting and highly skilled in transformation of significant magnitude; a team with sharp business acumen, keen insight and understanding of the end-game and the playbook and tools to get there; and a team with excellent communication and relationship-building skills with a relentless quest for results, and commitment to continuously measure and improve implementation results.

What the Data Says

Data regarding waning organizational and employee performance and engagement supports the need for HR reinvention:

  • More than one-third of organizations say that organizational performance is staying the same or declining, and almost indicate that employee engagement is staying the same or declining.
  • While business leaders own talent strategies, or at least should, more than half of organizations agree that HR/Talent functions have a key role in fostering leadership engagement, creating a positive employee experience, and engaging employees.
  • Despite senior leadership’s performance expectations of HR leaders and professionals, many say they are “not at all satisfied” with their HR service delivery – it simply offers no strategic value to the business.

If I were employed anywhere as any part of the HR/talent team, that last statistic would be frightening.

Our CEOs and other senior business leaders have invited HR functions, leaders, and employees to step up to the challenge they’ve asked for – that is, let HR be a strategic contributor to the organization’s business goals, transform less than optimally performing operations into successful and sustainable profit machines. Now is the time for HR to make good on the opportunity it’s been handed. That opportunity means the highest-performing HR functions:

  • Already have mastered workforce management processes and are enhancing them through revisions in remuneration policy, better work arrangements, etc.
  • Are now immersed in reskilling and retooling themselves to ensure HR capabilities and technology align with business goals and propel leadership engagement.

HR reinvention is double jeopardy. We rely on our HR function to facilitate organizational and talent change. When HR needs to be undone and redone before it can facilitate organizational change, business success could be thwarted. A highly revered colleague and accomplished chief talent officer for a large healthcare provider put it best: “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”

Let the HR reinvention begin.

How to Reset HR

Three HR reinvention calls to action are important for all organizations:

  • Shift Development Investments. Invest in skilling up HR business partners, leaders, and other members of the HR team. Very few organizations have dedicated solutions to develop their HR professionals. As a result, organizations are ranking HR skill deficits in their lists of top concerns. High-performing HR professionals should be trusted internal advisors who demonstrate critical thinking, business acumen, integrity, effective coaching and communication, and a drive for results. These capabilities earn the HR professional the right to collaborate with senior business leaders and stay at the forefront of their business plans. Without investing in the upgrade of our HR leaders’ skills, we are ensuring the demise of our business strategies.
  • Embrace and Implement Technology. Implement HR/Talent technology to efficiently and effectively manage talent decisions and actions. Many HR functions rely on no tools at all or manual, paper-based worksheets and spreadsheets to manage talent acquisition, onboarding, learning, performance management, and succession management. It is imperative that talent processes are aligned with business goals before any attempt it made to automate them. But it is futile to expect or require HR leaders to train business leaders, particularly Millennials, regarding their accountability for implementing talent strategy without use of tools and technology.
  • Institutionalize What-If Planning. Good HR leaders and professionals focus on enabling managers with information, tools and process to prompt talent retention, grow engagement, and grow performance excellence. Understanding the implications of those same HR services in forecasting talent requirements is more value-add. Executing on those same services in a what-if situation is the greatest value-add. What-if talent and leadership planning requires HR leaders with keen insights on talent and leadership analytics. Educating HR leaders on the difference between metrics and analytics and how to use analytics to predict and act on engaging leaders is not a nice-to-have; it is imperative in every high-performing HR team.

HR is most successful when it functions as a business lever. HR leaders are business people. We can wait no longer to equip them with the capabilities and tools they need to act as such.