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Why the HR function remains key to business success

By Emily Kamunde-Osoro | June 24th 2018
By Emily Kamunde-Osoro | June 24th 2018

As renowned scholar and thought leader Dave Ulrich says the human resources (HR) function begins with business and ends with business.

In other words, HR must demonstrate value to business and be involved in the company’s strategic discussions.

A colleague was quite offended when one of the managers walked up to his desk for a casual chat and asked ‘by the way, what do you people in HR do?’

My friend was so ‘annoyed’ by this question he actually took 30 minutes of his time to try and explain what HR does.

Traditionally, HR was seen to be an administrative function mainly handling payroll, pensions and leave; in fact, this is exactly where I started my career when my Head of Finance then was ‘managing HR’.

It is no wonder that in most companies without a HR department, these functions are generally carried out by Finance which is really underplaying the role of HR.

Dave Ulrich introduced the HR Business Partner Model in the 1990s yet it is still a new concept in our market today.

It represents a shift away from old administrative or so-called Personnel Management to a more strategic and business value driven function.

HR Business Partnering is best illustrated through the 3 Legged Model developed by Dave Ulrich.

The Centres of Expertise (CoE) provide specialist knowledge to the business and are considered as experts in their areas of practice.

Some of the disciplines in HR falling under CoE include Compensation & Benefits, Learning, Talent Acquisition & Organisation Development.

Shared Services on the other hand comprises of all transactional services where the focus is on running standardised, simplified and technology-enabled processes as a professional support service.

Such transactions include end to end services such as payroll, recruitment, leave management, pension administration and outsourced services.

The separation of the different HR roles provides more focus in each category leading to greater efficiencies and effectiveness.

Ulrich emphasizes that the primary responsibility for transforming the role of HR must rest with senior management, which is also responsible for making strategy.

It is worth noting that being a business partner doesn’t mean abandoning many of the traditional personnel and HR activities.

Successful implementation of the model requires high level of commitment from senior management, reinforcement of the need for change, developing skills of both HR and Line managers to enable them deliver.

Prof Ulrich will be the key note speaker in this year’s East Africa HR Symposium taking place from 4th to 6th July at Enashipai Naivasha.

He will be speaking more about this topic and showing how HR can deliver value for business as well as its role in Digital transformation.

Other speakers from around the world will be sharing on topical issues including how technology is driving business change, the impacts of mergers and acquisitions and case studies within East Africa context.

The symposium is open to business leaders and human resource professionals providing a platform to discuss topical issues.

—Emily Kamunde-Osoro is Founder & Director, Rise & Learn Limited.

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