HR should rework its training curriculum and align it to business needs. HR should share training need analysis and take line managers' inputs
What is the role of HR and an HR Partner? This question often comes up and the traditional answers have been – business partner, trusted advisor, people champion, etc. What if your COO thinks none of this?
Rahul Sharma, the COO of a large credit card company in India; an extremely competent leader, but hated the HR function. I wondered why Rahul disliked HR so much. One day I decided to walk up to him and asked, “What are your concerns with HR? It will be helpful if we can talk through them.”
He responded, “Really, you want to know? Everything in this company is wrong because of HR. Look at the people you hire. Standards are falling each day. This is impacting my ability to staff and has lowered utilization. Attrition is 64 percent annually. How can I run a company with a new set of people each year? What does HR get measured on? We promote people each year, but they struggle in their new roles. We need better quality training. We spend millions on training, where is the improvement?”
In an attempt to understand his position on HR, I asked him, “As a COO, do you think a company requires an HR function? If yes, how would you engage HR? How will you empower HR and what would you want them to be accountable for?”
This got him thinking. “I think we need HR but let me share my thoughts. While it appears that we sell credit cards, loans or insurance products as cross sell, we essentially sell services to our customers and create stickiness through our product offerings. There is hardly any product differentiation. Productivity and customer stickiness are the key differentiators, which are entirely people dependent. I need HR to understand this,” Rahul said.
Ok, so how would you engage HR meaningfully, I asked?
“Most of the work you guys do is in my area of operations. I determine the direction of the teams you work with. First, HR needs to work with me to determine a process around on-boarding and integration of fresh talent. You do this currently, but I need to hold my team accountable for adherence to the process to enable better results. HR can help me build metrics around this area and hold me accountable too.”
“Second, on skill building, HR should rework its training curriculum and align it to business needs. HR should share training need analysis and take my team’s inputs. Do you agree?” he added. “Yes, I agree,” I responded. The training attendance was an abysmal 43 percent. What if the training curriculum was customized to meet your needs? Would you support higher off-take, I asked. “Of course, I would”, Rahul responded.
“Third, I am designated as a COO but I am a simple guy. I have my good and bad days. People read too much into everything I say or do. I should admit I am enjoying this conversation and it is helping me think. But how can I trust you? You are an HR guy and you have your own agenda.”
“Why would you think my agenda would be different from yours or that of the business,” I asked. Rahul with a smile on his face said, “That is the image of HR.”
Rahul’s words still ring in my ears; his thoughts about HR, doubts about HR partners, etc. were not misplaced. So, what is the role of HR? As I have tried thinking this many times over, I think HR plays the role of an ALCHEMIST. Someone who is inspired by the act of enabling the success of those who are chasing a dream; one who can feel fulfilled not by a share in the treasure found, but by enabling the discovery of the treasure; one who is motivated by a selfless pursuit to enable the potential of people around him.
What do you think?
M. Anand Bhaskar is responsible for providing strategic leadership for the company’s people agenda and to build Sapient’s brand as an employer of choice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org