Operational HR is essential
As the role of the business transformation specialist climbs ever higher within the echelons of HR, there’s never been a more important time for those with a penchant for systems and processes to make their mark.
After all, attention to detail, access to company information at the touch of a button and essential facts and figures form the bedrock for future commercial decision making. In reality however, what the HR market is seeing right now is a move away from individuals willing to take on those more operational roles.
“There’s a real move today towards everyone calling themselves a business partner, but a true HR business partner isn’t going to be good at the operational elements which are so essential to an organisation,” said Emma-Claire.
“HR has to be accountable and measurable, systems and metrics are an incredibly important part of the commercial and transformation processes and a company shouldn’t even be thinking about making decisions without having the basics covered. HR operational experts are what companies need to survive, people who are extremely good at attention to detail and putting those policies in place.”
Why metrics are key
Emma-Claire underlines the need to be able to provide HR directors with information quickly and efficiently. Clear, concise metrics start with employee profiles – age, gender, length of service, pay, sickness levels – and should then go on to look at areas such as turnover, engagement, rewards and bonuses, exit interviews, leadership programmes, asking how people feel about their roles.
Lorraine Metcalf, HR director at online retailer notonthehighstreet.com agreed with Emma-Claire’s comments and surmised: “I think it is a problem HR has created for itself, if you’ve worked in a large corporate environment, it can be quite difficult for an HR practitioner to be able to stand back and look at how those different strands can be pulled together.”
Emma-Claire continued: “Good HR operational teams can also tap into the mood of a business and identify potential problem areas, such as undertaking online surveys to gain valuable feedback about levels of employee engagement.
“We all know highly-engaged and motivated teams will perform more effectively, so being able to flag up underperforming areas puts a marker down to the HR director that further investigation is needed.”
Is there room for operational HR at senior level?
Emma-Claire believes it was the emergence of the business partnering model during the mid-2000s which led to a move away from operational HR, and says today’s senior executives have a role to play in ensuring that junior staff are not always driven down the more commercial route.
“There are some very senior roles available and you can have a great career in HR operations, but there seems to have been a move away from this focus, creating a real gap in the market,” she said.
“Mentors should encourage people to love what they are doing, show them that there are more senior roles in this arena and you don’t have to be a business partner to have a successful career in HR.”
Lorraine concludes: “I believe the shared services model has created a gulf between people who are behind the scenes involved in policy and those who sit in front of the business and ask probing questions about what you are trying to achieve.”
Lorraine Metcalf, HR director, notonthehighstreet
Lorraine Metcalf is HR director at notonthehighstreet.com.