31 March 2021
Legitimizing the HR function for a better consideration of the human factor
As we prepare for the return to the office and take a step back, we offer a series of 5 articles throughout the month of August focusing on 5 upcoming human-centric projects as a result of company transformation. Each of these articles is based on our study “Transformations: 5 proposals to put humans back at the hearth of the game” published last June that you can download here.
The HR function is undoubtedly one of the corporate functions that has evolved the most over the last ten years. From the purely administrative management of employees to the co-construction of competitive strategies, it has undergone deep changes. HR is continuously moving from being manager to being a coach.
However, many of our HR contacts feel that they are not really in a position to serve the interests of their employees. Whether that be due to a lack of financial resources, a lack of decision-making power, a crisis of confidence, or a shortage of sufficiently qualified HR profiles, there is still a long way to go to structure a function of excellence.
An HR function that struggles to legitimize its position in the organization…
The type of mission entrusted to the HR department has changed significantly over the last ten years. The HR department has shed activities of lower added value by outsourcing, streamlining, and digitalizing tasks that are normally repetitive and time consuming. At the same time, they have taken on new tasks related to organizational changes. This is a first step towards for HR to take on the role of business partner: transformation by rethinking the organization and by collecting and disseminating data. This is why Akoya’s teams supported the French subsidiary of a major player in the pharmaceutical industry: to secure the HR data and enable its exploitation.
Although the HR function is now positioned at a more strategic level in most major groups, it still struggles to communicate its new roles and convince people of its added value. Critics point to a lack of technical expertise, arguing that HR is far too distant from the reality of the business and the ground-level to really serve the business.
For their part, The HR department says they are dissatisfied with the current positioning of their function. While they have taken on responsibility for increasingly strategic issues in recent years, this transition has often been to the detriment of a close relationship with employees. The HR position is a balancing act between hitting growth objectives and preserving the well-being of the teams.
Finally, the HR function still suffers from a lack of trust, or even real mistrust on the part of employees. HR processes can seem both complex and lengthy, with many silos between HR teams, and above all particularly opaque. In our study, HR employees interviewed proved to be well-aware of this lack of transparency and communication: 40% of them insist on the need to “demystify” the missions carried out by their department.
… and still has to prove itself
Rationalizing HR practices and mastering the challenges of transformation are among the HR function’s main ambitions over the next ten years. Such ambitions call for a real increase in the skills of the profiles within the HR departments.
The reinforcement of highly qualified HR profiles requires the introduction of excellence programs dedicated to human resources in schools and companies. Such courses would offer advanced training in various fields of expertise required, from understanding people to understanding economic activities, not forgetting data understanding and analysis. These training courses of excellence must go hand in hand with the development of specific HR “talent paths” that are likely to attract tomorrow’s talent.
The increase in expertise in the HR function also implies a higher standard of HR practices and regular sharing of best practices, in a logic of active internal and external monitoring. The unity of HR will also be its strength!
The HR function must therefore find the right balance between the missions it takes on and the postures it adopts to ensure that the human factor is fully taken into account in companies’ strategic orientations.