January 29, 2014  
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The New Strategic Role of Human Resources
by Mark Hordes

Today, the human capital leader from the human resource (HR) function of an organization is emerging as a true business partner to the enterprise. They must be operational-excellent and customer-focused to other business units. Five trends are responsible for changing and shaping the role of a human capital leader in a global manufacturing enterprise.

1. HR is no longer just a place
The drive to standardization is hitting a wall, so business leaders want new sophisticated and tailored HR programs that are high touch, technology-driven and accessible from multiple entry points inside and external to the company. Self-service and customized content also move the forefront. Today's HR executive skills must address workforce management issues, ROI on training and development, financially-based HR decisions and talent supply chain management.

The new HR Leader lives in a sophisticated and complex knowledge economy. HR work is no longer confined to conventional functions; its activities overlap other traditional functions and non-traditional activities. HR managers, employees and external vendors will share responsibility for HR.

To be successful requires new competencies: consultant, business acumen, client focused, tailored programs and services, "outside of the box" thinking, pro-activity, partnering, focus on effectiveness and impact and becoming enablers and trusted advisors to the entire company. Technology, especially, will be a driver of success.

2. HR will follow the evolutionary examples of finance.
Just look to the CFO role to see what is ahead for today's HR leader. Given clear delineation of strategic priorities, the HR leader role will emerge to govern an organization where talent and human capital predication and strategic insight provide the highest value to the enterprise.

Functional HR departments will become centers of excellence where they analyze and act on shared services and business partner needs. Operational excellence and accountability for quality and efficiency of service delivery will be a priority.

In many ways, the HR leader will be both a chief operations officer and a human capital officer to the enterprise as metrics are tracked and behavior is based upon the belief that acting like a trusted advisor to the C-suite is highly valued.

3. HR as a change agent to the enterprise.
As they're increasingly involved in major, company-wide change initiatives, HR is often asked to lead these efforts. They must lead and manage change, walk the talk, look at all aspects of change as it impacts people, technology, process and strategy, and help change it for the better.

HR leaders must examine and change systems and challenge the way the company does things. New skills needed for this include: communicating why change is necessary, adjusting reward systems, re-examining structures, shaping corporate culture and championing innovation.

4. The workforce of today will not be the workforce of the future.
A new type of worker has emerged. Employees born between 1977 and 2004 have increased from 14 percent to 21 percent of the workforce. These employees look for instantaneous feedback and expect to find out how they are performing in real time. They value hard work, are tech-savvy, are highly curious and expect to meet financial and personal goals.

These employees also value work-life balance and seek employment opportunities that complement their lifestyle while allowing for career development and financial rewards. They also have a mobile outlook and change jobs often. They expect their employer to provide mentoring and allow autonomy. They also appreciate diversity expecting employers to respect and value differences in the work environment.

All of this means that the HR leader of the future needs to be keenly aware of the changing needs of the new workforce and creative in establishing programs that meet these on-going and growing needs to be successful in effectively managing talent and retention challenges.

5. HR leaders must link HR investments to business results.
If human resources are assets, workforce strategy is a form of asset management. An enterprise doesn't just produce products and services, it also produces its workforce which is the outcome of a dynamic process involving recruiting, developing, retaining and rewarding.

By providing cues for better managing the workforce production process, HR can help ensure that the organization:

  • Secures the right workforce to achieve sustainable business goals.
  • Manages the workforce to optimize its productivity.
  • Anticipates changing business requirements and reorients the workforce processes and strategies to quickly and effectively accommodate those changes.
  • Accepts accountability for human capital performance in dollars and real time.

No longer is HR just a department. It's now highly affected by the workforce makeup and expectations that are changing due to a more global economy and the aging workforce. After all, people are the greatest success factor for a business.

Mark Hordes is the Organization Excellence Practice Leader for Sinclair Group, a trusted HR advisor to some of the world's largest manufacturing companies. He has over 30 years of professional experience in organizational design and development, human resources, building high performance organizational cultures and implementing large scale change management transformations. Contact him at: info@sinclairgroup.com.


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