Some barriers to HR becoming a strategic business partner
Most people agree that applying ethics in business makes
good sense. Henry Posters captures this well by stating
that a business that behaves ethically induces other
business associates to behave ethically as well. If a
company exercises particular care in meeting all
responsibilities to employees, customers and suppliers it
usually is rewarded with a high degree of loyalty, honesty, quality and productivity. When individuals operate with a
sense of confidence regarding the ethical soundness of their position, their mind and energies are freed for maximum
productivity and creativity. On the other hand, when
practising unethical behaviour, the individual finds it
necessary to engage in exhausting subterfuge, resulting in diminished effectiveness and reduced success.
A recent survey by Klaus and Associates showed that
although 87% of respondents believe that a lack of ethics
led to the current economic disaster, there’s hope for the future as a reassuring 80% think that ethics can be taught. Sixty-seven percent of the survey respondents pointed a
finger at the profit-hungry business environment as a contributing factor to a rise in unethical behavior, with
59% agreeing that shady conduct in the workplace derives
more from company culture than from individual
employees. It is therefore imperative for organisations to promote an ethical culture on a company-wide scale.
In this edition of the LeMaSa Chronicle we look at the
elements that should be included in an ethics training programme.
Many organisations have or would like to move the Human Resources (HR) function from doing mainly transactional work to becoming a strategic business partner. The first step is usually to restructure the HR department to create the HR Business Partner Role, Shared Services to take care of the transactional issues and Centres of Expertise to deliver specialised HR services. Most organisations are howeve r experiencing difficulty in implementing this type of structure. The role of the Strategic HR Business partner is particularly problematic.
The Strategic HR business partner’s role is often not redesigned to reflect the new expectations and the person is often swamped in even more transactional work. This is also often a result of the lack of mapping out the HR process for the new situation, causing role unclarity between the HR Business Partner, Shared Service Centre and Centres of Expertise. Line Managers are also not taken onboard with regards to the change in HR’s role and often show resistance or lack of understanding as to what can now be expected from HR.
Another barrier is that HR staff members are not being trained to be effective in the new role as HR business partner. This role can be quite complex when looking at the variety of roles to be played. These roles can be seen in the strategic HR competency model as described in the fifth round of the Human Resource Competency Study (HRCS) in 2007 on the Society for Human Resources Management’s website (www.hrm.org) and the book “HR Competencies: Mastery at the intersection of people and business” by Ulrich and others in 2008.
< span lan g=EN-US style='font-size:9.0pt'>Research conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council (Building Next Generation HR-Line Partnerships, 2008) also revealed that the most important attributes affecting the Strategic HR Business Partner’s strategic role effectiveness are “The Person” and “The Design of the Job,” not the “HR Function Structure and Budget.” A number of factors at the individual level — background, skill set, development experiences — have the largest aggregate impact on the effectiveness of the HRBP.
It is clear that HR transformation should be planned and implemented through a rigorous change management process.