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HR: The New Strategic Business Partner

Think a job in human resources just means posting jobs all day? Think again. HR is no longer filled with administrative work like screening candidates and spearheading internal training.

In today’s competitive and changing workforce, HR professionals not only have to meet employment goals, but they have to align key initiatives with organizational goals to ensure the right people are in place to grow the business.

In fact, HR has a place on the board of directors in 70% of organizations surveyed in the CRANET/SHRM/CIHRS 2014/2015 report. That is an increase from 63% recorded in the same survey in 2009 and 41% in 2004, according to a 2015 article published by the Society for Human Resource Management.

By becoming more active and strategic within an organization’s board of directors, HR leaders can help overcome business challenges, decrease cost and drive revenue.

HR Leads to Organizational Change

HR professionals are being called upon to help companies achieve business targets by drafting and executing HR initiatives that align with business strategy.

Walmart, for example, is piloting a new employee initiative to compete with online retail giant Amazon. In 2017, Walmart rolled out a new program in three stores, allowing employees to make deliveries on their way home from work, according to a 2017 article by SHRM.

“It just makes sense,” Marc Lore, President and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, wrote in a 2017 blog post announcing the initiative.

According to Lore, Walmart has 4,700 stores located within 10 miles of 90% of the country’s population and employs a million associates. The program runs on a volunteer basis, with employees choosing to participate and pick out which packages to deliver on their way home from work while earning extra income.

“Not only can this cut shipping costs and get packages to their final destinations faster and more efficiently, it creates a special win-win-win for customers, associates and the business,” Lore wrote.

Programs such as this directly involve HR resources during planning and execution.

According to SHRM, the HR department should be involved in a number of processes including properly training employees, addressing issues with overtime pay, travel reimbursement and potential driver-related issues, such as accidents and speeding fines.

Become a Strategic HR Leader

Global organizations are utilizing HR leaders to solve business challenges. However, not every HR department is ready to take on such a critical role.

It’s up to current and future HR professionals to think and act like business partners to become part of the decision-making process. Leadership author and coach, Erika Andersen, shares a few behavior tips on how to get yourself noticed and be treated like a strategic business partner in a 2013 Forbes article.

  1. Understand the business – Get a clear understanding of all of the business functions, how they work and what challenges each function faces. You’ll also want to learn more about the competition and understand the similarities and differences between competitors and your organization.
  2. Step outside of HR – Examine how the business is performing within other departments such as IT, marketing, sales, etc. Also, consider sharing ideas and solutions from those vantage points to provide value to any organizational-level discussion.
  3. Take action – Become involved in helping other departments meet their goals by either doing things in your department that make their jobs easier or by sharing ideas on how they can improve processes or results.
  4. Listen – Be sure to listen, summarize and fully understand what other leaders are telling you and sharing about their departments. Doing so can help you get more involved and come up with solutions for other areas of the business.

As organizations continue to develop new products, compete with market rivals and expand into new marketplaces, HR will continue to become more involved with creating the workforce of the future and ensure business needs are met.

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