Want to be a Strategic HR Partner in your Business? Then dont give up your day job
Recently I was asked by a group of relatively ‘new’ HR professionals how HR can be a strategic partner in the business. After my initial sigh of frustration (Are we still talking about this? When was the last time the CFO was asked this question of their profession?) I thought I’d respond by asking them a question and seeing what answer came my way – “what’s the most important strategic value you can add to the business as an HR professional?”
I had a variety of answers ranging from esoteric culture responses to the pragmatic ‘add to the bottom line’ – all meaningful and relevant, but just not hitting the mark.
If you want to add strategically to your business, don’t give up your day job – recruitment. One of the most important activities completed by HR practitioners every day is the one they often lament or avoid. It’s the process of recruiting someone to join your business. It’s also often the activity that HR teams will outsource, either to someone who promises to save them time or money, or for an off-the-shelf eRecruitment system – all in the name of progress. Do you realise that with every post and pray ad on a website devoted to recruitment, where you have no contact details and an automated response saying ‘don’t call us, and if you don’t hear from us, assume you didn’t get it’, you lose your brand as a business and you lose your impact as an HR professional? You’re basically handing over the keys to the kingdom.
Some of you may remember what it used to be like in the sepia toned days when we had to hit press deadlines for ads, when copy was king, and you differentiated with your employment brand and images. When you only had the papers and you chose which publication as carefully as choosing shares. When you put your name and your contact number in the ad and you fielded every call and spoke with every single applicant. Where you wrote letters, or then, sent emails to every single candidate. Where you met with your long list and cut it down to a short list, speaking to each unsuccessful member of the long list and, heaven forbid, letting them know why they weren’t successful. Every day speaking to more candidates and selling the business and role. By the time the decision was made to appoint the preferred candidate, you knew everything about them and you had an unbreakable relationship with them, honed through the multiple conversations you had with them. You also had a fat talent pool of unsuccessful candidates who desperately wanted to work for you, and an even greater pool of people who, although they didn’t hit the mark, spoke about you as a great place to work.
But no, we’ve handed all of that over to auto-generated responses, no personal contact and no opportunity for a candidate to test their suitability for the role. We’ve handed over the relationship to an algorithm and a piece of software. The successful candidate starts with us now and may not even know who’s in HR – other than someone who might have set up an interview or emailed an Employment Contract. A name at the bottom of an email.
I can hear you now – but we’re too busy for this! We have too many vacancies and too many more strategically important initiatives to implement. Well, my HR teams have managed to stay high-touch and true to these old recruitment ways in businesses that are growing like topsy domestically and globally, with caseloads of vacancies in the double figures. We just wouldn’t hand it over to anyone else because we know the value to our business.
So, your ability to have a strategic influence on the business – it’s in the footfalls of your employees. The ones you let a machine build a relationship with. Or, it’s in the ones that got away who didn’t want to translate their CV into a drop down menu, and felt that maybe your business wasn’t someone they wanted to work for. It’s in the ones that don’t have a relationship with you or your HR Team, and through whom you can’t exert influence or keep your finger on the pulse. That’s where it is.
This article was written by the Australian Institute of Business’ Human Resources Director.