The evolving role of HR Professionals

According to an article, “The Changing Role of Human Resources” on the website for Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, pressures like increasing globalization, rapid technological change, tougher competition, and organizational changes make HR’s role in navigating these transitions vital, but different from their limited responsibilities of yesterday.

In shifting for “personnel” to “human resources,” HR had to become a strategic partner with the leaders of the business–to contribute to significant business decisions, advise on critical transitions, and develop the value of the employees–in short, to have a real seat at the table.

Dave Ulrich, author of “Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results,” lays out a path for the next generation of HR departments to follow. He describes a multi-faceted approach to delivering HR services that meets the needs of both employees and employers, and positions HR as a significant contributor to organizational success.

Ulrich writes the “new” HR should be responsible for four areas within a company:

  1. Strategy execution– as a strategic partner working to align HR and business strategy.
  2. Administrative efficiency–as an administrative expert working to improve organizational processes and deliver basic HR services.
  3. Employee contribution–as an employee champion, listening and responding to employees’ needs.
  4. Capacity for change –as a change agent managing change processes to increase the effectiveness of the organization.

Making the shift to a new HR role will raise unique issues for every HR group that attempts it, Ulrich continues, but there are some common steps and activities that will increase the likelihood of success:

  • Strong HR leadership: A strong leader can develop a clear vision, motivate others to share that vision, and help them work toward achieving it. The HR leader will need to work both within the HR group and with the organizational leaders to reshape everyone’s expectations of what HR can and will deliver. The success of the change will depend upon HR’s ability to meet the real needs of the organization and the credibility it develops.
  • Acute future orientation: HR must understand how changing environmental, organizational, and workforce factors will likely influence the business, anticipate the associated HR needs, and be prepared to deliver appropriate solutions to meet those needs. By focusing on workplace trends, like the importance of intellectual capital in they way employees are hired and managed, HR can anticipate changes that will need to be made in company processes and respond “ahead of the curve” as opposed to reacting behind it.
  • Flexibility and creativity: Today’s HR group needs to be flexible and respond quickly as the organization’s needs and priorities change (as in globalization, for example).
  • Delivering value: HR is still often perceived, says Ulrich, as simply a non-revenue generating function. It is important to make apparent the value provided by working with the management team to hire the right people, manage them well, pay them appropriately, and build a working environment that encourages success.

Ulrich concludes that it is clearly time for a quantum leap in the HR field and stresses that everyone within a company can help this transition along by taking seriously the organizational pressures to change, helping to identify ways to measure the value delivered by HR, and conducting meaningful research related to all areas of human performance in tomorrow’s organizations.

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