Europe’s HR Leaders Worry Too About Becoming Business Partners

The days when the basic function of an HR professional focused purely on core HR matters of recruitment and payroll are long gone. “It was a simpler time,” current HR managers might sigh. But times have indeed changed.

Today HR professionals are often working for international organizations, with technology instantly connecting them with their colleagues around the world. But, a one size fits all approach can be too simplistic and it fails to consider the regional subtleties of culture, working practices and legislation. European HR decision-makers in particular, have to tackle a unique set of challenges.

Internally, HR has evolved beyond transactional responsibilities into a strategically important business function that can define and pinpoint what makes an organization a success or a failure. Ask any HR leader about key business challenges and it is almost certain, according to research by Europe’s Fosway Group, that they will mention increasing their organization’s performance and profitability (92%), reducing costs (89%), and improving customer satisfaction (86%). The good news is that these are measurable goals. The bigger challenge is defining what practical actions HR can take to positively impact them.

Business agility is a top HR challenge

europe business agilityOne of the top challenges identified by European HR professionals is delivering business agility (82%), a measure fundamentally different to performance, profitability and the like.

Business agility “refers to distinct qualities that allow organizations to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environment without losing momentum or vision. Adaptability, flexibility and balance are three qualities essential to long-term business agility.” HRZone

 It is a complex concept, and one that will vary according to the circumstances of each individual organization. But, just because it is challenging to measure, doesn’t mean you can’t assess the readiness of HR and your HR technology to deliver business agility. What you don’t want is your architecture and systems to stand in the way of achieving it.

Achieving agility requires change

Any organization can strive to be more agile, whether large, medium or small, but to become agile HR must examine both its operations and its systems against  three key elements: customer satisfaction, organizational energy, and dynamic architecture.

“Creating an agile, entrepreneurial, digitally savvy and future facing organization is critical to business survival in the C21st” says HRN’s Director of Research and Development Peter Russell.

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“What we are seeing is that many organizations are now realizing the challenge is more than just hiring the right talent, it’s also about looking in the mirror and facing up to the reality that a deep cultural and structural change and re-invention is essential.”

The desire to deliver increased performance and profitability whilst reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction and increasing business agility certainly puts a lot on the shoulders of HR professionals. But, by continuing to develop HR into a more strategic business partner, a top priority for 53% of respondents in the survey research, HR professionals can work to deliver these goals.

One of the keys to success is access to the right data and insights, whilst ensuring HR systems are acting as an enabler, not a barrier. 80% identified a lack of data integration across HR silos as a major challenge for them, which is potentially why more than half of the survey participants envision changing their existing core HR, learning succession, and workforce Fosway Europe surveyplanning solutions within the next three years. This nods to the importance of getting the right HR technology in place, ensuring adoption and interpreting the organization’s data using analytics to generate valuable business insights.

Looking beyond the technology

The research also demonstrates that change should not be limited just to HR technology. As the role of HR constantly evolves, so do the metrics of organizational success. Fosway’s statistics highlight that participants believe HR’s future success is dependent on upskilling HR teams (72%), new or enhanced processes (69%) and re-organization to create a better business alignment (54%).

All of the above ought to be considered together as a package: if you adopt new ways of working, you need new operating structures to bring them to life and maximize the opportunities they offer. The new insights you gain by implementing them can bring you closer to dealing with those challenges HR professionals have to successfully tackle both now and in the future.

David Perring is the director of research of Fosway Group, Europe’s leading HR consulting and research group. With over 25 years’ of experience gained from working with Europe’s leading brands, David is both a commentator and advisor for HR innovation.

David delivers Fosway’s research agenda and supports advisory projects with Fosway’s clients. He is the author of research papers and articles on HR technology and innovation – including Fosway’s 9-Grids™ for HR technologies.  With his deep market and solutions knowledge, along with comprehensive insights gained from enterprise projects, David provides practical and pragmatic independent advice.  David has also spoken at numerous conferences in the UK and Europe. 

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