Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
24 Nov 2011

The changing role of the HR profession

24 Nov 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Redefining business value

The 2011 Ochre House Annual HR Directors Symposium saw key thinkers in the HR profession come together to debate the issues around Redefining Business Value Through a Talent Centric Approach.


As this pressure has grown, there has been a nagging suspicion building that the Ulrich model has in some cases removed the all-important middle and created a disconnect between process and strategy, an important connection which must be rebuilt as the profession reacts to the changing business climate.

Strategic business partners

One of the speakers at our event, Gyan Nagpal, former head of talent in APAC for Deutsche Bank and now CEO of the consultancy, PeopleLENS, emphasised the fact that corporate boards are looking for greater involvement and depth of insight from HR.

To effectively be these strategic business partners it is now more important than ever that the profession presents its case in a more structured and robust manner.

In a challenging and changing economic environment it's difficult to forecast skills and organisational needs. To tackle this problem, CEOs are looking to strategic outsourced business partners for assistance, but, in many instances, they still do not see the HR function in this role. To counter this, HR professionals, either within or outside the organisation, need to align talent strategies with real industry needs.

In the first instance there is a level of education needed on both sides. For senior line management a better understanding of how talent management can contribute to the bottom line is desirable, while HR professionals in return need to learn the inner workings and language of corporations to be able to quantify the business impact of talent management in a way the board easily understands.

Predicting future talent

Forecasting, attracting and retaining the people an organisation will need for an uncertain future is a huge challenge for HR. However, according to David Stephenson, head of learning and development at Telefónica O2 UK and Ireland, the solution could at least partly lie in employing a significant number of people who thrive on ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty.

But recruiting and retaining these individuals is where the difficulty lies due to a combination of the natural inclination to recruit in one’s own image and the tendency of these individuals to move on if their attitude is not valued.

What is needed then is a more relaxed attitude towards retention which involves taking a few risks on people who don’t necessarily fit with the organisation in its current form.

HRs changing role

It is clear that the HR function is changing and Simon Wright, CEO and president at Virgin Entertainment Group hinted at what this new function looks like. Wright cited examples at Virgin where individuals were ‘parachuted’ into new areas where they had little or no experience – and thrived. Taking this approach can provide a platform for Stephenson’s ‘mavericks’ to excel and provide businesses with the skills needed to stay ahead in this changing environment.

Over the coming years, we are likely to see more risks taken in recruitment and talent management strategies as HR and line manages attempt to stay ahead of business needs, but to do so effectively the two functions need to combine their efforts and support each other as strategic partners should.

Download full white paper

The full analysis of the HR Directors Symposium is available in the Ochre House White Paper Redefining business value through a talent centric approach. For a copy of the report please contact Prashanie Dharmadasa: prashanie.dharmadasa@ochrehouse.com