HR is probably the only function that talks about ‘the business’ as if it’s something separate. Indeed, the concept of an HR business partner doesn’t help as we are part of the business, not a partner. HR needs to be connected to the company, but I observe many people in HR are disconnected from the organisation. They take an HR centric view of the world rather than focusing on the business.
When I am running an HR development programme for commercial organisations, I'm often helping people understand how to value a business. So they could use this knowledge to understand what HR should focus on to create value. On one occasion, one of the participants told me this was ‘irrelevant to her role as an HR professional as she didn’t do calculations’. This, to me, is what being disconnected from the business means.
Compare this to the response from a participant on another programme who said, ‘I took a value-based approach to three recent conversations, and it changed the whole dynamic’. When I explored this, she had been asked to implement three unplanned headcount requisitions. In the past, she would have executed them, but based on her understanding of the operational free cash challenge the business faced, she asked how the headcount contributed to meeting this challenge. In all three cases, the business leader removed the requests — a great example of what being connected to the business means.
What are the HR Tech implications?
The language of the business is the language of data. Data analytics can help HR connect to the company. But, there is a specific version of disconnection disorder. Which I term Data Disconnection Disorder (DDD) that HR suffers from.
We tend to start with the data we have rather than with the business issue. We are fascinated by the latest bright shiny thing, and Big Data is in danger of becoming one. We are so fascinated by the allure of big data we start with the data we have collected:
Rather than key business issues:
It’s a bit like the guy examining under a street light at night who says he’s looking for his car keys which he dropped ‘over there’ in the dark. But he’s searching for them in the light where he can see. The danger is we look in the light, where we have the data, rather than in the dark, where the business questions lie.
This disease is even worse when not only do we not connect the data to the business issue, but we only look at the data we have. Instead, if we combine our data to data held in finance, operations, sales, risk etc. that is where the cure for DDD sits.
About The Author:
Nick Holley has a unique background that combines experience as an army officer, ten years as a successful futures and foreign exchange broker with Merrill Lynch and sixteen years in senior organisational, leadership and people development roles in large global organisations. In his last two roles Nick was partner in charge of learning for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa for Arthur Andersen and director of global people development for Vodafone.