"If you want to work with people become an Undertaker"

If there is one frustration we hear from HR Leaders on numerous occasions it’s not being able to find commercial HR professionals that can truly partner with their respective business/client groups internally. We have been delighted though to see the shift over the last few years in HR becoming more and more of a strategic partner to business leaders. The shift from ‘HR Leader’ to ‘Business Leader that practices HR’ is becoming more evident. This is supported by the number of organisations we see offering HR practitioner’s commercial positions outside of Human Resources. We have seen an increasing number of HR professionals receiving the opportunity to take on general management positions for business units, special projects and expatriate assignments.

On a recent business trip to Denmark I had an interesting discussion with a senior HR professional around the challenges of appointing a commercially minded HR Business Partner. After interviewing several candidates from within his organisation, I came across the above statement. “If you want to work with people become an Undertaker”. It was said in jest and it merely aimed to highlight a difference in approach. He agreed a passion for working with and developing people was required to be successful in HR. However, his statement aimed to highlight a difference in mind-set needed to deliver a first class HR service and even rise to the upper echelons of HR Leadership if so desired. He was frustrated by some of those that he had interviewed internally as they were only interested in the extent of their HR toolkit and the advanced HR programs at their disposal but actually knew very little about the businesses they were supporting. He said “Until you see yourself as part of the business you support, understand its operations, its challenges and then creatively tailor an HR solution to serve those needs and achieve the business strategy, you are not embracing the full potential your profession could have on the wider business and bottom line”. We must shift from ‘HR Partner’ to ‘Business Partner practicing HR’!

This applies to all specialisms and levels of experience in HR, whether an administrator or CHRO, an L&D or Executive Compensation specialist. This is a mind-set, a frame through which you view your work. Do you understand how your business makes money? Do you know what your internal client loses sleep over at night? What they have set out to achieve in 2014? If we don’t have at least some understanding of this, HR remains a support function and doesn’t embrace its full business driver potential.

Reading the above, do you feel your HR function is bringing your organisation to life or making funeral arrangements?