Aligning Human Resources Staff with Field Operations

HR and Field Operations_adult-architect-build

A reader asks is “aligning human resources staff with field operations always a good strategy?”  She then asked, “How do we prepare to align well with offices or operations that are either not co-located with corporate headquarters or are remote?”

This appears to be a topic of good currency – and one clearly on the minds of many.  Let’s look at this through three different lenses:

Aligning Human Resources

The Business Leader’s Perspective:  We Need Local HR Support

All CEO “trend reports” remind us of the importance leaders place on human capital.  Recruiting to fill key positions (and what position isn’t a key role when it’s sitting out there waiting to be filled?), raising the bar for managers to provide effective feedback and appropriate direction, development plans that contribute to the efficiency of the business or investigation of employee issues in a fair and balanced manner are all pressing business priorities.  And yes, these are the work for us in human resources.  However, if a business leader isn’t feeling a concomitant sense of urgency with their operational needs, the line between “corporate” and the business may be a road too long.  Shadow HR operations tend to crop up when operations don’t feel sufficiently well served. They either then press to have “local” HR support that they supervise, or establish their “own” recruiting, training or myriad of other services to meet business demands. 

Human resources should look critically at the calls for having local resources.  Are you sufficiently responsive?  Are the business needs being met and timely?  Are you engaged to the point where you understand the business, how and why things are done and where the potential failure points sit waiting?  Again, the call for local resources can often result from lack of adequate coverage, engagement or relationship building.  If nothing else, consider this a warning sign that the business needs and wants more from you and your team. 

Human Resource Business Partners: How Can We Become Truly Effective Resources

You may be wondering about the efficacy of the HR business partner (HRBP) model.  The HRBP was designed to insure that we were “awarded” at seat at the table, embedded in the business so we could work side by side with business leaders to understand, participate in problem solving and otherwise become an active contributor to strategy, operations and revenue generation.  I have wondered if this model worked and perhaps even had outlived its usefulness.  A recent conversation with Patrick Murray, i4CP’s Vice President, Surveys and Assessments, provided wonderful insight into a fresh view on the HRBP role. He has seen a resurgence of interest in this role. In his recent Linked In article, “The HR Business Partner is (Still) the Hottest Job in HR”, he cites that at the time of publication of his piece, “Indeed reported that there were 28,950 HRBP job openings, with nearly 10,000 of those listings being Senior HR Business Partners”. Clearly many organizations count on this important role. 

More from Dr. Jeanett Winters:  How to Deal with a Disgruntled Employee

Murray did point out that it is the preparation for this key role that needs transformation.  His view is that training and education are essential to the success of the model.  i4CP has been examining the importance of the HRBP position along with how to strengthen the impact of these strategic resources. Patrick reports that HR leaders are coming to understand that an HR generalist’s experience alone is woefully insufficient to properly ready this unique HR expertise.

We need to educate and inform HRBP’s on business strategy, actively build business acumen, steep them in the business issues and enable them to demonstrate their operational “chops” as pre-requisites to assume this business aligned roles.  It makes so much sense to revamp the preparation and truly ready these individuals to take on a role of substance as a true advisor to operations leaders. 

Chief People Officer: How Do I Allocate Scarce Resources Equitably and Effectively?

As the Chief Human Resource Officer charged to supply services, allocate resources and always do more with less, is alignment in the field or with operations the ideal approach?  This is a question best examined considering the objectives of the business.  Evaluate too whether the needs are real or result from the perceived sense that HR takes too long, is too bureaucratic or otherwise not in sync with your business colleagues.

While working with a client, I heard that HR was too slow in reacting and didn’t “get the biz”.  Two issues were at play here:  The human resource team was being deliberative and cautious in addressing complex and knotty problems.  They took an appropriate, albeit what may have seemed like a longer than desirable period to dig deeply.  And the business leader was rather sensitive about his leadership style and didn’t want HR “nosing around” his staff. Neither party was wrong – they just were looking at the problem through different angles of the prism.

Saying so, doesn’t make it so.  Don’t send your team to the field without careful attention to relationship building, training and full appreciation of what it means to become a vital business ally.  If the business calls for local support, provide it thoughtfully and with planning and forethought.  To become a member of the “inner circle”, your HRBP needs to be equipped with knowledge, skills and abilities that enable them to shine.

Dr. Jeanette Winters answers your questions about human resources.  Send her a question here.


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