This guest article was previously posted by Nicole on imagine~hr Blog, with huge success.
The best HR functions and young HR practitioners tend not to stick to the traditional people agenda, and the challenge is now to align the whole function to this thinking by beginning to take an active interest in supporting younger HR professionals.
HR in the past has been too focused on internal people issues, and it is now all about learning by way of filling in the skill gaps and through adopting mentorship programmes. (See more how imagine~hr is making this happen here)
Not just junior HR professionals, but senior executives are remarkably insular in many organisations, yet there is huge competitive advantage to be derived from being endlessly curious about the competition. HR professionals have a huge insight into this and it is not always healthy just to have a career in HR. Some of the best senior HR professionals are people who have worked in other functions, and that is as true for a Chief Financial Officer as it is for an HR Director.
It is a bit of a one liner, but the future belongs to the curious next generation HR professionals. The best practitioners are not insulated in the terms of the way they behave and contribute, even though they may be operating in day-to-day silos. They eagerly absorb learnings from other sectors and regions.
If we look at a commercial HR organisation and the HR organisation of the future, the focus is really around the external commercial perspective. One can see some of the leading organisations focusing on aligning the internal brand values with the external brand values that bring to life the brand for both environments.
As an HR function it is probably clearer now; as we are in recession times, we do need to be aware of what is going on externally. HR needs to reflect and demonstrate agility around culture, resourcing and flexibility on skills and the new generation.
Commercialising the next HR generation
Individuals and capability may vary within HR but one of the things which need encouragement in HR teams is that people do take that healthy interest in the people business, understand the organisation and HR strategy and its impact on customers. The lack of commercialism in HR practitioners in understanding what makes the business tick or how it works, how the business makes money, how it creates margin and how it creates benefit for its customers can be scary at times.
The big challenge for early career stage HR professionals is not to have a blinkered view of life, that actually it is just about the people; because fundamentally if organisation’s do not make money, people do not have jobs and the real challenge is making sure that juniors are grounded in understanding the fundamentals of the business.
Secondly, HR needs to start looking beyond just the interests of either employees or the executive team, and look at the broader range of stakeholders, so the broader community, the broader employee base and running a much more balanced score card of issues that HR focuses on.
There is relatively little evidence out there at the moment that HR acts as that kind of balancing force. In many ways that is the role currently of the non-execs, but the extent to which that’s done well is questionable. This needs to trickle down in HR to the very bottom.
Critics may say that that is pushing the boundaries and who then is HR first and foremost accountable to. The best way to understand that is to say that chief execs are responsible for making organisations rich today and HR is responsible for keeping them rich tomorrow
Turning HR’s accountability on its head
HR focuses on the word ‘engagement’ and this is rather continuing with a long line of personnel and HR traditional thinking. One can think of words like ‘raising morale’, ‘empowerment’.
Early career HR professionals need to turn this question on its head and say that HR’s role is not to extract more from their employees but to make their organisation attractive to people who are really valuable.
In a sense what we have been saying is that what HR does is get stuff out of workers while the task actually is to make your organisation attractive to people who are valuable in order to become a beacon for talent; and in the long-term create competitive advantage.
Addressing the capability needs of these young HR professionals is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. If the organisation has a sense of how junior HR professionals can add value, it should tend to do well in finding some of the brightest and best.
Organisations need to understand that HR is fundamentally like an applied business discipline, and that it is not a pure people discipline.
Attracting a new talent
Taking this path; organisations will get some very commercially orientated people who spend time in HR along their career trajectory, whilst making a significant difference to the organisation’s current and future performance, making HR’s commercial contribution look very different – a very attractive path, both to new entrants and those within the organisation itself.
The depicting and positioning of HR as a people discipline is actually one of the main reasons that we have such a problem with the whole positioning of the junior HR career. It has to be seen as fundamentally an applied business discipline.
The next generation of younger HR people gives reason for optimism, and people who support such talent are rather pleased that they are asking brilliant, non-traditional HR questions.
This early career generation has pretty good knowledge of their skills and contribution objectives, and businesses have to be careful not to crush that talent as they set out employing them.
(c) New To HR 2013
Nicole Le Maire, is Founder of NewToHR, a company which is dedicated to providing new and junior/young HR professionals with the skills and expertise required to thrive in the HR sector. With a focus upon people, newtohr.com is able to pass on the same levels of care, knowledge and professionalism required to add an essential human touch to young professionals. Nicole can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @NewToHR