Article: Confessions of an HR business partner

Life @ Work

Confessions of an HR business partner

Dilemma of an HR professional who wants to move to a business role
Confessions of an HR business partner

One would assume that in a company where the CHRO became the CEO, HR would have opportunities to follow a similar path. One would assume wrong


One would assume that in a company where the CHRO became the CEO, HR would have opportunities to follow a similar path. One would assume wrong.

The HR head of the conglomerate I work for is also a CEO of one of the group companies. One would assume that in a company where the Head of HR had CEO aspirations that were fulfilled, other HR professionals would be given opportunities to follow a similar path. One would assume wrong.

A company that seems so supportive of a HR head moving to a CEO role is simultaneously so closed to allowing HR professionals to have cross functional experience or giving them opportunities to try their hand at something else if they have the interest and the capability. Extremely talented peers in our HR department leave to join MNCs that have serious leadership development programmes for HR leaders that give them different responsibilities and exposure to projects that prepare them for greater flexibility as their career progresses. But this attrition in the HR department doesn’t register on anyone’s radar as a troubling sign.

Every time we have suggested similar leadership programmes we have found no ally in the senior leadership in the company, and especially not with our Head of HR and CEO. In the process of trying to build his credibility as someone who can think of the whole company and not just the HR function, he doesn't want to be seen as supporting an HR initiative that doesn't have buy in from other departments. He cannot be viewed as being partial to HR and he has to prove that he can be objective about HR. This is key to him being accepted as a CEO. If the Head of HR turned CEO doesn't want to support an initiative to give HR practitioners line opportunities then you can imagine how receptive other departments are.

My colleagues in other functions, my peers from business school, are politely disdainful about HR. There is a lot of lip-service about the value of HR and the caliber of our HR practitioners but now that we have elected a token HR person in a business role, the company as a whole seems to feel like it has done its bit. It is not unlike diversity issues or representation of minorities, if you think about it.

We hire the best for all our different departments, drawing from the top tier business schools in the country and recruitment for HR is no different. The difference is once these high caliber people have been hired, they are made to work in silos and any attempt to apply for roles that are different are not given due consideration. It is almost as if, now that we are in HR, it doesn't matter that we graduated from the same business schools as our colleagues in marketing or operations. Because we are HR, we are not ‘equipped’ for business roles and we have to ‘build credibility’. If having an HR CEO cannot change the mindset in the organization what will? I hate the idea that I will have to leave this company which for the most part is a great company to work for, in order to fully realise my dreams. Is grooming leaders only the preserve of MNCs?

The writer works for an Indian conglomerate

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