Saturday Shoutout!!! HR Conquers Their Waimea Pipeline Dream


Saturday Shoutout!!!  HR Conquers Their Waimea Pipeline Dream

Issue 2 | Number 10 | 28 July 2012

Frequent readers of my blog know I write about the notion that strategic, high-value HR executives should have a “seat at the table” with an organisation’s other high level leaders.

Is this simply a pipeline dream for many in HR?  How important is this strategic presence to HR’s success? And do employees, line managers and executives agree on the relative importance of HR?

In the article ‘HR Business Partner: Part Learning and Future Challenges’ Ulrich and Brockbank wrote that the informal business partner model has existed for well more than 100 years, when effective support functions, including HR, have contributed to business results.  Formalising how HR professionals can create more value as business partners has been our focus for the last 10 to 15 years.  Now HR can reflect on what has been learnt in the past decade about the relevance of the business-partner model and see clearly the challenges that lie ahead.

With a more futuristic outlook, Nischchae Suri is his article ‘HR as a Strategic Partner for Organisations in the Future’, reflects on today’s Asian economic climate, where smart companies agree people are their most important asset and one of their key competitive advantages – everything else can be replicated.  However, as rapid globalisation continues to impact the region and Asia’s markets become increasingly bullish, the talent market is becoming increasingly competitive.

Suri sees HR issues form some of the greatest challenges CEO’s face today.  The most notably attracting and retaining the best talent, steadily improving people productivity and dealing with a diverse workforce in the midst of increasing globalisation. HR today is expected to not only comprehend but also conceptualise, not only create but also innovate, not only implement but also sustain relevant strategies and contribute effectively to giving a corporation its winning edge.

Despite this, there are still frequent articles that show HR departments are on the whole still not considered a valuable strategic asset.  After nearly 20 years of hopeful rhetoric about becoming “strategic partners” with a “seat at the table” where the business decisions that matter are made, the truth of the matter is most HR professionals aren’t even close.  The majority of HR executives remain, to all extent and purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.

This viewpoint is supported by J. Craig Mundy Vice President of Human Resources and Communications, Ingersoll Rand who writes in the his article, Why HR Still Isn’t a Strategic Partner – HR as a strategic partner to the business, has not happened.  Mundy sees that many HR leaders are willing to partner with the business, but given the unique situation of each individual company, they have little in the way of concrete guidance about how to fulfil that role.  Why is it so difficult to inject that business perspective? It is because as HR leaders we feel ourselves to be near the pinnacle of the organisation. The organisation reports to HR and must meet our demands for information, documents, and numbers.  In fact, that’s backwards. HR is far removed from the points and people that make a difference with customers and a difference to the business.  Our perspective should be that of seeing to it that the people at those points can perform as smoothly, productively, and frictionlessly as possible.

I immediately remembered reading an article by Howard Risher published in March 2012 which was titled ‘HR Should Focus on Confirming It’s Value , Not Cost per Hire‘.  In his article he refers back to a cover story on Why We Hate HR in Fast Company magazine back in 2005 which receive a lot of commentary.  Not only was it discussed, debated, and argued about ad infinitum (and still is, some would say), but it articulated the notion that strategic, high value HR executives should have a “seat at the table” with an organisation’s other high level leaders, but, that this was simply a pipeline dream for many in HR.

Many think that the “seat at the table” debate has been debated to death, but it is back in a new research study by Bersin & Associates of The Top Best Practices for the High-Impact HR Organization The research though controversial and full of assertions that were hard to face as a HR practitioner, it summed up important frustrations that were common among HR professionals when the research was conducted in 2011.

To truly be partners to the business we must identify those critical points of the business where the strategy succeeds or fails, and provide relevant talent solutions. In other words, we must think in terms of what Brian E. Becker, Mark A. Huselid, and Richard W. Beatty call “the differentiated workforce,” in their book of the same name.

Okay. But where does HR go from here?

In the years since Why We Hate HR, HR leaders have fought an uphill battle to change the profession.  Today, smart companies do have a place at the table for HR.  The challenge for HR now is in living up to the high expectations that come with the seat – expectations of high impact. HR is confirming its value.  It is not easy…

Graphics: Design Horizion

If you find these updates useful, feel free to forward on to a work colleague or friend.

About the Author

To fulfil his professional and personal career aspirations, Tony Wiggins created The HR Architect’ brand in 2009.  With a well-grounded focus and passion for HR, he thrives on working across his networks as a thought leader in ‘making a difference’ in the HR arena.

Tony Wiggins is the Founder and UX Editor of Saturday Shoutout!!!and The HR Architect Spends 5 Minutes with ….Tony utilises the blog ‘The HR Architect’ as a social media network and platform that empowers HR professionals to network, assist and support one another, spanning different countries, subcultures and niches.

Contact Tony at or @tonywiggin on Twitter.

One Response

  1. […] #5 HR conquers their Waimea Bay Pipeline Dream […]

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