As a psychologist, Russell is very interested in behavioural change and how it is linked to evaluation. Russell has taken his marketing metrics know how, his operational expertise and his understanding of the psychology of people, to make sure that the HR function is as effective as it can be because when HR practitioners are good, they can be awesome.
Russell has seen that in the past HR was split into Personnel, Training and Organisational Development. These functions often reported into different parts of the organisation. Personnel directors became the main players when these three functions were put together, creating four roles:
1) Consultant 2) Business Partner 3) Welfare 4) Administration
The Consultant helped HR at a wider level with change. At an HR level, Business Partners worked with Line Managers to skill them up. They ensured that there was a source of supply and a link to the service delivery side of Administration and Welfare.
Specific roles around Employee Relations and Reward were subsumed within these more generalist areas. One of the challenges was: Where does this area of expertise sit now? Where is our specialist reward person if we have business partners? Sometimes these people then became Consultants. So the Consultant role lost its focus on Organisation Development and became more about specialist HR practices.
Business Partners lost their focus, partly because of level. If you have an HRD who is not as senior as they could be, reporting to finance – by the time you get to the Business Partner, the role is relatively mid management. So one of the challenges is: At what level does the Business Partners work at? If they are at a more junior level, what kind of advise can they give?
Different HR departments work in different ways, the roles are different, the scale is different – retail HR is very different to manufacturing, HR manufacturing is very different to HR services and so on. But what is interesting, is the lack on consistency across the piece, because consistency can help us. CIPD hasn’t helped by making the Business Partner a junior role as originally it was meant to be as senior as the HRD. In fact the HRD was seen as the HR Business Partner of the Top Team.
One of the challenges in Administration has been “factory solutions”. Now organisations have LMS’s for L&D and software to run admin and payroll. Sometimes payroll sits in finance, sometimes not. One of the age old issues has been the idea that HR does the payroll but they very rarely know how many people work in the organisation. It is an interesting problem and an issue for credibility.
Welfare and Wellbeing disappeared, as a lot of HR became outsourced quite quickly. Recently this area has been rejuvenated with the idea of wellbeing. The problem is that wellbeing is meant to be a strategic intervention but it has become part of the service delivery chain.
Employee Relations, Recruitment, Outsourcing, Redundancy, Replacement, were all part of the HR service delivery role but have now ended up being a consultant area. So if you want a specialist to talk to you about reward or executive compensation… you may have to talk to external people who can give you advise.
HR is no longer thought of as experts in business and the corporate world. They have become experts in HR. What is interesting here is HR has almost replicated the model that organisations have in finance. Interestingly it is often found that finance are welcome at any table, this is not always the case with HR. They are not always seen as having the credibility that comes from the same place as finance – which is a shame.
Sometimes HR becomes very fad driven and is poor at bringing learning and the outside world together. They seem to lack the clout of charisma to make the change required actually happen. This is an issue. It is all very well being fad driven but you have to turn that into action and turn that into credibility.
The HR Budget is often a source of issue. Where it comes from? How it’s sourced? Where is it developed? HR budgets can be seen as a gift from the organisation. One L&D person said to Russell that the L&D budget was the tax the company pays to the L&D department. This is a problem because HR need to know:
- How the budget works
- Is there value derived from the budget?
This is part of the way to move HR forward.
If recruitment is poor, if the service delivery option is not helpful, if the Business Partners are not doing what they need to do at a senior enough level…. then the performance or the Service Level Agreements that exist within the function, between the function and the rest of the organisation, can lose legitimacy. When it comes to giving high value strategic advise, the functional credibility can be undermined.
A Service Mindset has got in the way of HR development. The idea of having Service Level Agreements between the service aspects of HR and the rest of the organisation, can be a problem culturally. If HR is going to recapture some of the key roles and the right to hold those key roles, it is important that HR are delivering a service that is seen as being different or working.
Where does the idea of credibility come from? If it is not coming from the service mindset or from the idea of added value (which a lot of HR people wrestle with and still want to learn how to do), it tends to come from the idea that HR holds the secrets. HR possess aspects of confidentiality. Which is why people are nervous when people from HR pitch up and go into meetings. HR know where the skeletons are kept. Perhaps we have to get away from this idea as secrecy and confidentiality create a barrier and an issue within the organisation, or alternatively, we could say that this is the source of HR’s power and the source of HR credibility so lets trade on that.
It all comes back to: What is HR for? and How does HR want to be perceived?
One of the things that Russell has noticed is that HR has gone through three major changes:
1) Human Resource Management – skilling the function to allow HR to become more strategic – which has had its own issues.
2) Agilility – How do we build agile organisations, agile frameworks and agile HR, bringing in the idea of computerisation and technology. That has been great for the people that supply the technology but has it for HR?
3) HR Transformation – One of the biggest challenges in HR transformation is the time that it takes to change HR. An area that spends a lot of time reporting to be working in change management, is often very poor at normal operational line management .
There are some expectations in HR, that have somehow got lost. We need greater HR transformation and we need to build resilience to do that. This will also allow HR to build the ‘right to talk’ to the organisation about these wider sorts of areas.
What are the current threats to HR?
IT is a massive threat to HR, often they hold the keys to the factory and some HR teams hand the keys over and say you crack on with that and we are going to do some of the value added services and the consultancy side, the commissioning of services and such like.
Legal can be outsourced. External or internal legal houses have many of the solutions to HR and often HR go into these legal houses as they do not have the expertise.
Russell has worked in an organisation where HR, Change Management and Transformation Practices all work together. He found that they stepped on each others toes and none of them really knew what they were about. Fundamentally they all went to HR to find out what they were not allowed to do. Their view was to consult with HR to make sure that they had not made any mistakes. They took the glory and HR were there to be the backstop. That is an awful place to be. For HR to have lost this idea of Change Management in the organisation is a real issue.
With regards to Transformation, we often see that a CEO is much more comfortable with an external HR Transformation provider, than they are with the internal people. That says something about credibility and skills.
One of the key threats and key opportunities from Non Executives is the idea that HR is part of the prevailing culture. If you have organisations that are doing very unethical things in terms of practice, business process and customer service – HR are part of that. They are complicit as opposed to standing back and actually having the power and authority to take the high ground from a certain perspective.
Russell feels that when HR is good it can be very good. There is no doubt that all these other players in the organisation can be managed well and value can be added significantly amongst peers and reports. But the problem is when HR is not secure enough, not well enough embedded and not adding enough value.
Dr Russell Thackeray works as a critical friend to prove the value of HR and L&D, in their functions and the outputs that they create. If you would like to talk to Russell about HR solutions, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org