In my previous blog about why ABW is good business for HR, I mentioned three new roles that HR professionals need to assume in this changing world of work: A Strategic Partner, An Employee Sponsor or Advocate, and a Change Mentor.
Taking the first of these, I’ll explain more about what it means for HR as a Strategic Partner.
In today’s organisations, the HR person needs to contribute to the development and delivery of the organisation-wide business plan and objectives. When HR professionals are aligned with the business, the personnel component of the organisation is thought about as a strategic contributor to business success.
To be successful business partners, the HR staff members have to think like business people, know finance and accounting and be accountable and responsible for cost reductions and the measurement of all HR programs and processes. It’s not enough to ask for a seat at the executive table; HR people will have to prove they have the business savviness necessary to sit there.
The HR service delivery is therefore crucial in gaining credibility and developing and demonstrating their strategic partner capabilities. If HR is able to successfully transform their function into an effective organisation while maintaining the “personal touch” culture, they have the opportunity to become truly strategic partners to the business.
HR and ABW
There is a long way to go however, in many organisations, as we often see in projects where we co-develop and implement new ways of working. Even though the people component is huge, the projects are often initiated and driven by real estate or facility management teams and budgets. Surprisingly, HR is not even present in the initial discussions.
We also often experience HR teams presenting their case as to why ABW does not work for them. They are dealing with confidential information, they have the need for privacy, and some of their teams are more desk-bound such as HR helpdesks and payroll teams. Which are all valid concerns, but concerns that can be discussed and transformed. So rather than having the opportunity at the beginning, to embrace the change and transform their function, by becoming a strategic partner to their organisations, we see the opposite happening.
The need for transformation
In my view, this can be related to the traditional workstyle and mindset of HR teams within an organisation. The threat of the status quo can be a challenge in being able to be strategic about a new way of working. It also seems like they would need to transform themselves first in order to better support others.
In our most successful projects however, HR is deeply involved and takes ownership of the ABW program of work as they realise the importance of a new way of working for their teams as well as the bigger prize that the organisation will get when working in a new way.
For HR to be a successful Strategic Partner they should be:
- Connectors: HR should play a role in aligning all strategic and cultural change initiatives within the organisation with the ABW program. In this way, the new way of working becomes an accelerator to achieve the desired business outcomes.
- Role models: A strategic and pragmatic contribution from HR to ABW programs will not only enable transformation of the HR function, but will position HR as a strategic function that adds value to the business and people.
- Guardians of the ABW concept: HR should play a role in evolving the new way of working and ensure the organisation does not fall back to their old behaviour. Everything the organisation does needs to be aligned with what you would like to achieve. Policies and messages need to support the desired new way of working. e.g. do you really need a time writing system or holiday tool if you truly embrace ABW?
HR professionals have an essential role in transforming any organisation, and HR as a strategic partner is just one of them. In my next blog I’ll explain more about the next role and what it means to be an Employee Sponsor or Advocate.
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