How commercial are you?
As an HR professional, the need to demonstrate your commercial nous has long been top of the agenda. Businesses want to make better use of existing capabilities and recruit top performers to ensure that internal processes align with commercial aims. The support of a commercially-savvy HR team is vital for boards as they prepare and plan for what the next few years could deliver. If you can show your commercial expertise you will always be in high demand with organisations that link support activity with a solid business rationale. But you must also recognise another, equally important, facet of your role – that you act on behalf of the HR function.
It may sound obvious, but with so much talk of commercial business partnering, the fact that HR exists to represent the employee workforce can be neglected. Affecting business change, particularly some of the culture shifts that are required in the current economic climate, means that the focus must often be on people and behaviours, rather than solely on the bottom line. The expectations on HR driving a culture shift towards one of increased responsibility is a top priority for many businesses. This is most evident within the financial services sector, where increased regulatory requirements from the Financial Services Authority demand that organisations develop a more customer-centric attitude. The fundamentals of repositioning will come from the HR function; HR should act as the ‘moral compass’ to lead the way in developing and aligning values that are fit for purpose for the future. Culture repositioning is informed by a shift in leadership behaviours and increased employee engagement, both of which are the remit of a high-performing HR function. As employers hire with these aims in mind, it’s important for HR professionals to develop and display a relevant track record of success.
How to develop the skills required
Operating commercially involves a focus on activities that add value to the business – actual contributions will vary between organisations. If you can’t identify or measure the output of your activity, re-evaluate the areas of focus. Keeping business priorities at the top of the agenda can help you build a track record of commercial achievement. In some cases, an internal secondment to an operational division could help you to speed up your development. The creation of a commercial skill set may rely on an internal focus of an organisation’s requirements, but as an HR professional you also need to develop a wider, external view of best practice. People who’ve moved jobs fairly regularly tend to be better at maintaining an outward focus, while those who have remained in a role or organisation for an extended period of time may lose this outlook. Business requirements and pressures create a tendency to focus on internal ways to improve methods of working rather than investigating how other businesses solve similar challenges. Addressing this can be as simple as knowing your peer group. Identify the top performers in the HR field and widen your external network. Start to encourage dialogue to discuss ways of working to develop and implement new strategies.
Page Executive’s HR practice hosts regular events where attendees can develop their knowledge on key, current themes in HR and network to share ideas and strategies. GE Healthcare’s HR director Sameena Bashey was the guest speaker at a recent event focused on the development of leadership behaviours. She shared the following advice for professionals on the upward curve of their careers:
- Be courageous – you and the function can gain an incredible amount of respect by challenging poor leadership behaviours
- Be the advocate for the behaviours – you can’t expect people to demonstrate the right behaviours if you don’t exhibit them yourself
- Try to never compromise your own value-set – the most sought after HR professionals are those who can also develop an HR function that drives culture and behaviour changes.