Future of HR: The Transition to Performance Advisor

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has just released its latest report entitled “The Future of HR: The Transition to Performance Advisor”. This report combines the results of an i4cp survey of 384 business leaders, with interviews of more than 70 senior HR leaders of large organizations (i.e., GE, Kelly Services, Flextronics, T-Mobile, Adobe, Hyatt, Blue Cross etc.).

HR is an enigmatic profession, as the authors write, “the sad reality is—even in today’s enlightened age of recognizing the value of people to the business—too many top executives still view HR as a non-strategic cost center instead of a core, profit-contributing function.” HR Professionals need to act as performance advisors to the business, in order to become that core, profit contributing function.

HR Professionals estimate that they spend about 25% of their time on non-strategic activities, while non-HR respondents estimate that HR Professionals actually spend less than 10% of their time on strategic activities. This disparity is confirmed time and time again by researchers who study HR. Unfortunately, HR views itself as being more effective than it really is. This drives me crazy, and I think our entire profession needs to do a better job of evaluating the true effectiveness of our initiatives. We also should not be offended when operations leaders demand the details of the effectiveness of the initiatives we roll out.

I was intrigued by the discussion on generalists/business partners. Most HR Departments have developed a matrix HR Structure with Generalists (Advisors or Business Partners) mixed with Specialists (in Centers of Excellence, aka COEs). What gets confusing is when turf wars evolve between these areas, within the HR Department. Who trumps who? This report argues that the COEs must support/enable the business partners to do their work, and that the business partners are the most important part of the HR department. HR departments become dysfunctional when that “support” is confused with regulating the organization. Nothing is more frustrating to an Operations Manager than having to fight its own HR Department while trying to get something done.

Another common frustration with HR Departments is regarding metrics. Measuring the people side of the business is tough. That difficulty can’t be an excuse though, but HR must be careful it provides information to the organization, not just data. HR Professionals must be “data storytellers.” These HR metrics must not be solely for HR, they must be business metrics as well.

Based on its research, i4cp believes that the top competencies for future HR professionals include: strategic thinking, strategy execution, in-depth business knowledge, business acumen, strategy development, business ethics, organizational development, decision-making, team work, and technology / information systems. HR Professionals who develop these competencies will thrive in future organizations. HR Professionals who do not, will most likely (I would add will hopefully) be left behind and/or forced out of the profession.

Overall, this report is useful when combined with other recent publications by Dave Ulrich and various consulting firms on the state of HR. It especially dovetails well with Ulrich’s latest work, HR From the Outside-In. HR is an easy profession to poke fun at and criticize, and this report does not hold back in some of those criticisms. Thankfully, it doesn’t stop there, and it provides an invaluable discussion on the role of HR.

The report itself includes much more than what I cited here. I encourage you to read it and apply the challenges it outlines throughout. I suspect that if HR leaders really heeded its advice, the HR Profession would exponentially grow in influence in the next few years.

Note: You do need to be a member of the i4cp to download the entire report. I was provided with an advance copy of this report to review. I was not reimbursed for this review and have no direct affiliation with the authors or with the i4cp.


About Tim Vanderpyl
I am a student of leadership and human resources, and I'm blogging to share some of my thoughts and ideas with readers. I'm a CHRP (Certified Human Resource Professional) at a large healthcare organization, a graduate of Regent University's Doctor of Strategic Leadership program, and lover of the life that God has gifted me with.

2 Responses to Future of HR: The Transition to Performance Advisor

  1. Pingback: Future of HR: The Transition to Performance Advisor « Tim … « Human Resources 123

  2. Elva says:

    Thanks for posting this.. It’s been a pleasure to read 🙂

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