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HR still has to explain what HR does

This neat summary from the Gartner 2022 HR Operational Playbook points towards more pace and sharper focus. Both depend upon HR becoming closer to the business than ever before.

Gartners HR Priorities model

When I’m listening to HR leaders, as a coach and in workshops, I hear different experiences of this challenge.

Some business leaders ‘just’ want HR to resolve issues. This earns some quick credibility, but as a problem-solver rather than as a strategic partner.

Others come to HR with their business strategy fully formed, too late to contribute and therefore leaving HR in catch-up mode.

As we work out ways forward, there’s often a common theme. HR still has to explain what HR does, how it relates, and therefore why strategic partnership delivers the best results.

In my last HR role, leading a European HR team, I decided to ‘reboot’ relationships with business leaders – to go back to base, remove assumptions.

It felt like a) asking dumb questions about what they did, and b) stating the obvious about what HR does.

But it’s the best thing I ever did.

In fact, ‘dumb’ questions are incredibly powerful when positioned well. For example, ‘I know that we talk regularly, but I want to make sure that I truly understand how your part of the business works and what’s most important to you. Let’s schedule a meeting to just focus on that.’

Then, giving the ‘obvious’ information becomes incredibly helpful – a kind of recap and re-orienting of the messages about how you and HR can contribute at a higher level and add more value.

Strategic alignment with the business can be built conversation by conversation, as well as in the boardroom.

What’s your experience of this?

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