Repurposing HR from a Cost Center to a Business Accelerator

HR-executive-on-phone-Jane-AndersonWhen choosing a nonfiction book,what are the triggers that prompt you to want to learn from this author? For me it’s identifying with the topic on a personal level. Having worked in HR and knowing there is often ambivalence toward the department, I was eager to read from an HR executive how to bridge the gap between current perception and future reality. I chose Repurposing HR from a Cost Center to a Business Accelerator by Carol Anderson because it breaks down traditional perceptions of HR, convincing us of what it is not and getting us to think in terms of the powerhouse that HR should be. I liked the author’s approach to setting the record straight on the value HR brings to organizations. As Carol says: The challenge to HR is to educate executives on the value of HR and to show our potential…” 

Then she goes on to offer in great detail how to effectively become a business partner, investing in human capital and develop into a thriving business accelerator, not just a cost center. 

Throughout the book the author talks about breaking down organizational silos commonly known to us as compensation, recruiting, employee relations, and learning and development.

When the organization switches from developing programs, policies, and processes to improving the performance and productivity of the workforce, HR will finally contribute to the bottom line.”

The principles and techniques in this book will educate the organization to “all things people” and build the credibility of human resources. This HR journey is facilitated by a RoadMap, a tool Carol created to make the transitions easy to interpret and understand. Along the way case studies are used for planning, execution, and evaluation of the leadership of the human capital investment. The author shares from a wealth of experience augmented with comprehensive research that is both relevant and credible. In one chapter she presents stories of people outside HR whose complex debates span opinions suggesting HR is no longer needed to HR should be split up or disbanded. Carol offers a viable alternative which re-creates the role of HR in key areas across the organization which are represented in this book as StopOvers on the RoadMap.

Putting the RoadMap to use is like seeing all the HR areas as a collaborating units, not sequential, but contiguous. This allows a strategy to be developed using a holistic approach, but applying it uniquely to each area. Carol discusses these StopOvers through her book, devoting one chapter to each. The RoadMap puts human resource competencies into practice. Since it is org chart agnostic, the RoadMap can be used regardless of team structure. In other words, the RoadMap dissolves organizational silos in favor of recognizing the multiple roles of HR in the business. This whole idea of the RoadMap dovetails perfectly with the StopOvers. The implication of the StopOver taxonomy suggests performing a thorough, methodical assessment of what goes on in that role. “StopOvers are times for collaboration, resource and knowledge sharing, reflection, restoration and recovery.”

Imagine laying a RoadMap in front of you with the StopOvers clearly marked. These StopOvers are highlighted in the next few paragraphs. Remember that it’s important to the HR teams to think collectively instead of as experts in sub-disciplines. Carol suggests this premise: HR exist to help the organization achieve its goals and strategies.” 

Then at the end of her book she summarizes: HR cannot only think in terms of HR metrics, but must actually measure the impact to what matters to the organization revenue, expenses, and market share.” 

The StopOvers covered in this book, are Strategy, Analysis, Risk Management, Sales and Marketing, Investor, Resource Steward, Advocate, and Trusted Advisor. Each chapter is devoted to one of the StopOvers. Readers learn the definition and purpose of each StopOver, consider planned Outcomes, and identify Objectives. A set of Key Questions with prompts to spur deeper analysis of the role are embedded into each chapter with further action items appropriately stated as Work Products That May Emerge. Certainly throughout this process role development and knowledge will be enhanced. Each chapter also delves into skills and strengths team members will realize in Knowledge to Develop and Behaviors to Strengthen.

Stopover strategy: Think of strategy as creating your HR value proposition, products, services, and cost to deliver. HR strategy frames its work so they stay on course with what HR will deliver and what it will not. Strategy defines purpose and compares “what is” with “what should or could be.” It is important to first define the work, in writing to all stakeholders, the purpose, outcomes, and expense of the work to be done. This is all wrapped up in strategy.

Stopover analysis: Analysis provides business intelligence. Analysis promotes solid understanding of facts, pros and cons, contingencies, and all the implications necessary for good decision-making. The analysis StopOver might be revisited many times during this HR transformational journey.

human-resources-hrStopover risk management: Being in HR is inherently risky! The volume of regulatory and legal requirements makes it so. This is an important chapter in today’s competitive environment. This book review provides minimalistic highlights. Read this chapter to gain insight into this topic. The leadership team members need to be educated in assessing and mitigating risk. The author identifies two sometimes conflicting perspectives of risk management.

Developing plans to mitigate regulatory and compliance impacts; and Cost of ineffective leadership, though performance and productivity and loss of talent Stopover sales and marketing: I wondered, when I read this chapter title, where does HR connect to Sales and Marketing? Is it the need to sell their values to the organization? Yes, but as Carol points out, HR has to appeal to audiences that find and engage talent, then build commitment. HR is tasked with assuring that people within the organization and outside the organization perceive it as a desirable, even enviable place to work.

Stopover resource Steward: I’m not real fond of the term Human Capital, but the truth is, capital is an asset and I would rather be considered an asset than a liability. I’m sure you would too. However, the topic of this chapter is broader than that. Think about the expanse of HR as it encompasses vendors of nearly every ‘human interaction’ type. Payroll, health care, recruiting, legal and compliance, tax consultants, financial services, planning, safety, building security, data security, to start. Stewardship belongs to everyone, but the onus falls heavily on HR and the leaders of the organization.

Stopover advocate: What is an advocate? Isn’t one aspect an act of making sure someone is treated fairly? HR is designated the advocate role for both the organization and the employees. That could be a dubious role. I know. Right? This chapter acknowledges the balancing act that must take place to assure the organization is making the best decisions for both people satisfaction and the stability of the organization. In one place, Carol says, “This is the culture of the organization, and HR emerges as the guardian of the culture.” Being an advocate means aligning words and actions to ensure commitment and performance – organization to employee and employee to organization.

Stopover investor: We often think of the word investor in relationship to finances. This is shortsighted. In this book HR is encouraged to look at all aspects of organizational work as an investment in resources. Without laying a solid foundation to sustain these multiple roles consigned to HR, many of the functions within the organization are at risk. HR professionals need to be aware of the work, production, and performance of the organization so effectiveness is gauged and value continually added.

Stopover trusted advisor: Trust is not bought, it is earned. Being trusted is the pinnacle of the HR profession and as such is indispensable. The author asks the question, “How does HR build trust?” For this chapter alone, this book is a valuable source of answers for that question and many others. Gaining trust is only the first level, growing that trust to become a trusted advisor is the elite form and one that HR professionals strive for.

This book report doesn’t touch even the tip of the iceberg as far as content and wise counsel you will receive when you read the entire book. If you’re serious about changing the perception of HR in your organization this book is your ticket in.

The concepts shared in this book are highly researched and have been practically applied. I like what I read in one of the final chapters of the book. As a former HR team member, I couldn’t agree more. “The role of human resources is different than any other overhead department role because of the vantage point “everything people.” HR is like the threads that weave through every aspect of the fabric of an organization. This book is your RoadMap to make the most of your HR journey.

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Jane Anderson

Jane Anderson

Chief Communications Officer at Insite Skill, Jane Anderson’s career has brought her through a range of professional experience in a variety of industries from insurance to engineering to manufacturing to financial services. An avid reader and lifelong learner, writing became a natural avenue of professional pursuits. Reading books and writing book reviews started as a hobby and has since grown to be part of her vocational experience. Jane's proclivity for designing and writing procedures has opened doors of opportunities to write ISO 9000 documentation, create training materials, develop process improvement documentation, contribute to and curate articles for online sources. In her capacity as technical writer and project manager, Jane has conducted usability tests, been an editor and content provider for websites. Jane claims to be “the best follower you'll ever want to meet” and has been repeatedly called servant leader, eternal cheerleader and inspirational go-to person.

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