Where’s the Beef? It Takes More Than a New Title to Create Business Value

So, what does the new title mean?”

She had walked out on Friday as a generalist and returned on Monday with a new title of Business Partner.

“It means I am now assigned to a business unit, I am their personal HR representative. “ And with that, a new title took hold, but within the confines of the organization, it did not bring value.

Where’s the beef?

There was a Wendy’s commercial a few years back where the catch phrase was, “Where’s the beef? This was my reaction when I heard this story about the new “Business Partner.” So did anything change beside the title?

How in all likelihood can you add value if you change the title but do not change the job and its alignment within the organization? There is such a proliferation of overblown titles today that I often find myself trying to figure out what was the thinking behind it?

Recruiters are now called Talent Acquisition Managers or talent managers. Did we tell them the reason that we changed their titles? If they are asked what the new title means, will the answer bring value to the title or the organization?

If the answer is “no,” it is just a new suit of armor. Why bother?

In my world, you grow a partnership when you learn how to create value in a relationship or business.

What is a real Business Partner?

When you create value in business, it establishes a win-win situation for you and your client. Providing superior performance and working to build relationships helps develop client loyalty. Your client will not be satisfied unless you provide them with real value.

To be successful in HR today, we must be a true partner to not only our business partner clients, but to the entire organization from the lowest level all the way up to the CEO. We must help shape the priorities and plans of the business. Our success as HR leaders will determine whether organization’s achieve success in these times.

PWC recently released their 15th Annual Global CEO Survey: Delivering Results — Growth and Value in a Volatile World, and if there ever was a lob thrown our way, this is it.

This research states that only a minority of CEO’s are getting comprehensive HR management information for the measures they say are important. It’s filled with devastating metrics which outline, in all the clarity that could be mustered, the important challenge that organizations are facing as it relates to talent.

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The word value is one that pops up a lot in my vocabulary.

I often say that this is the greatest time to be in Human Resources. HR is the most important function within an organization today. Yes, I know the marketing strategy is paramount to completing an organization’s goal. I also know that an organization’s strategy is frequently built around a financial and IT model.

Talent as a competitive advantage

However, with all that being said, it takes an amalgam of talent to reach those key goals.

  • Where is the talent coming from?
  • Have we identified the key players in reaching those goals?
  • Do we have the right skills now or in the future to reach those goals?
  • How do we keep the workforce engaged as we march forward?
  • How do we develop our talent?
  • Do we have the right people in the right places at the right time?
  • Are we applying metrics to make decisions?
  • Are we mindful of the impact of employee engagement and performance?

All these questions bring us back to the value that HR brings or should bring to the equation.

I have always had this vision of HR as internal “people consultants” that provide insights and strategies on all the above. This will enable leaders to make the right decisions and aid in crafting the right business strategy using that most important asset with the organization — people.

All this alignment with the organization will take a lot more heavy lifting than simply changing a title.

Yes, value is the key word that should be in the vocabulary of every HR leader going forward. We just have to bring it.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


2 Comments on “Where’s the Beef? It Takes More Than a New Title to Create Business Value

  1. Good article Ron — Our field will make far more progress when we stop making up silly names for ourselves like Business Partners, Human Capital Consultants, Chief People Officers, etc.   I’m not sure why we don’t get that our clients DO NOT CARE what we call ourselves.  

    The most effective HR group I was ever associated with (Bank of America, late 90’s) was called Personnel.  Their power and influence came from being incredibly smart, business savvy, trusted advisors. Neither they nor their clients cared what their titles were.

    Since we’re the ones who keep pretending to “reinvent” ourselves, we can stop this immediately.  How about a universal pledge that we’ll all revert to calling ourselves Human Resources?

  2. Ron: Just an excellent piece with lots of punch and practical application. I personally think part of the current HR aura comes from a lack of distinction in people’s minds as to just who the HR people really are. Titles like “Business Partner” are so vanilla as to reflect an unwillingness to commit to specific value being produced. I also think that as long as we continue with HR as a sort of “general store” for people issues it will continue to display a lack of focus. Benefits should be called Employee Benefits and Compensation should be joined to their hip and it should be a separate function called Employee Benefits and Compensation, an administrative function. HR suffers most directly from the general view of employees as EXPENSE, break the expense part out from the talent part and give the functions room to breath and be distinguished. Figure out the value of your talent and then build a talent function that befits the true asset worth of the employees, especially uniquely talented people. Model this function after the best headhunters in the world…that would be added value.

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