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Extend and deepen HR Relationships

Our research into HR trends showed that we are good at collaborating across our field, but could partner more effectively with other parts of the business.  Open and trusting relationships help us to learn about how our business really works, and we can draw in insight and expertise that can help us in new ways.

How would you evaluate the quality and extent of HR’s relationships across your organisation?

If you imagine your reach into the organisation – how would you describe it?  We have networks of relationships, often built in a reactive or tactical way.  In an ideal world, the reach of HR could be seen like a spider’s web, stretching across the whole organisation.  In reality, is it more targeted than that, depending on the job that needs to be done?  Your web might be stronger in some areas than others, and even have holes in it, where you don’t perceive a need that merits the effort.

Breaking through glass doors as well as glass ceilings

Recent HR research shows that we could realise huge potential by reaching out to build new relationships, or deepen existing ones.  This is especially valuable where we want to learn how to add more value, in new ways.  New challenges demand new solutions, and constant innovation.  Where will new ideas and approaches come from?  The irony is that we often can’t predict that, until we put two people together and enable them to share what they know.  I came across a wonderful example at the GE Global Research Centre where they wanted to generate innovation.  They put an aerospace expert from their jet engine business together with a molecular physicist from their X-ray business, with no agenda except creating possibilities.  The conversation had to start with generous curiosity and a question we could all use: ‘tell me about your world’.

Developing new approaches demands a different kind of conversation

If we want to come up with new approaches, we have to ask more open questions.  It also helps to engage with stakeholders earlier in the planning process – opening up new areas to explore and making sure we understand the real need or opportunity.  Even before that, there is a critical step.  To have that kind of conversation, you have to have an effective relationship in place.

Leading through relationships

‘We manage through meetings.  We lead through relationships.’  I can’t remember who said that, but I’m sure you’ll agree.  Most of the time, we feel too busy to explore new areas, and are more likely to focus on using meetings to progress our agreed goals.  Investing time in building relationships for their own sake takes courage, but it takes your potential to add value to another level.

HR adding value in new ways

GE did generate a great idea from the collaboration of X-ray and jet engines – the sensitivity of X-ray is now used on aeroplane wings to check for minute damage.  The idea could only be generated once they had shared openly, in the spirit of collaboration.  What kind of fresh approaches could you develop if you explore further the worlds of your client groups?

Some questions for you to ask yourself, if you would like to extend and deepen relationships across the organisation with HR:

What are the key opportunities and challenges facing your organisation?
  • What are the strategic priorities and what’s on the horizon, and how can you ensure that you fully understand these?
  • Who are the people who understand these challenges best and how they play out in reality in different functions?
How would you evaluate your relationships with the people who hold the knowledge and insight that you need?
  • Would you describe the individual relationships as comfortable or uncomfortable, purely functional or eagerly collaborative, cagey or trusting?
  • Can you imagine having a different kind of conversation with them, eg. one that starts with the question ‘tell me about what happens in your world – I want to truly understand, and I may be making some assumptions.’?  If not, why not?
How committed are you to building more trust in this relationship, so that you can add more value?
  • Would it be worth the effort?  It will take time.
  • Where it is worth the effort, how could you start to build a stronger bridge and learn to collaborate towards building new solutions?
Before you start thinking about solutions, spend longer creating an open climate that can lead to deeper trust.
How can you build the relationship so that you are both open to fresh learning on both sides?
  • How can you hold back your existing frame of reference and preferred HR approaches until you’ve opened your mind to what’s really needed?
  • How can you adopt their language and frame of reference?
With these questions, you are preparing your mindset as well as the conversation.
Connection is one of our 7 Facets – the behaviours and activities that lead to success in today’s HR challenges.  Here’s a summary.

HR Development Framework Also check out Reputation and Perspective from the icons below.


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