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Human Resources: How to know when you have “arrived”

As HR practitioners, many of us have gone through our academic and formative business years hearing about how HR needs to get a “seat at the table.” How HR needs to be seen in the same light as Finance, I.T., Sales, Marketing, etc. The term, “HR Business Partner” is now used as a title as opposed to being a simple collection of nouns, verbs or adjectives that describe what we do vs. what we are called. I have found that far too many HR professionals aspire to this title or role of “business partner” when they should be more focused on delivering value in their role. Simply put, if your HR goals and objectives are aligned with the business goals and you are delivering value, you are therefore, by default, a business partner. Anything that you do to add value and move the business forward is as a result of your partnering with other departments/functions.
Many industry colleagues have often asked me, “well how do you know when you are being an effective HR business partner?” I have often turned this around by asking them that what they really need to be focused on is being self-aware…that is, knowing when you have arrived as an HR professional. Inevitably, HR professionals than get excited and start talking about the exciting projects they have worked on or are currently working on. Projects like employment branding, job evaluations, harassment training, etc. get brought up and as HR professionals we tend to get all tingly talking about these things. But let’s be honest…..developing & implementing these types of projects is our job. To me, this would be the basic expectation of any HR professional. That is, to identify organizational gaps and address with HR solutions.
So if leading these types of projects isn’t the penultimate feather in our HR cap, what is? For me, I feel I have truly added value and reached a certain zen state in my career as an HR professional when my internal clients are asking for my involvement in projects and initiatives that have NOTHING to do with HR! Now, I know at first blush that sounds a bit crazy and self-defeating but think about it for a minute. If I am being asked for my opinion, input and involvement on non-HR matters it is probably because my current HR practices (due to my great team!) are well ensconced in the business and are humming along. My operations partners are looking for more from me and my HR team. The HR value we provide has become a ‘given’ and they are now looking to me as a business professional for my input.
I have experienced several moments like this during my career but several have really hit home over the last several months. Recently, I was asked by our Director of Engineering to review a white paper he is presenting at a conference. Did the whitepaper have anything to do with HR……? Nope! The subject matter had absolutely nothing to do with HR and I can certainly tell you he wasn’t looking for any technical input from me! He was, however, looking for someone to take a general business point of view and review the paper for flow, tone and presentability. He was also looking for some advice on the written elements and how well the document flowed. In my opinion, because of the solid business relationship we had, he was asking more of me as a business partner/colleague as opposed to asking for HR support or HR advice.
To me, this was a bit of a watershed moment. When you are asked to review papers/presentations, provide input to business processes, prepare company communications, moderate operational meetings, etc. than you have truly “arrived.” This is the true essence of the HR Business Partner – a multi functioning business professional who adds value across the lines of business through traditional HR practices (i.e. functionally based) and non-traditional ways.
How about you? What has been your watershed moment? Have you “arrived”? How did you know when you did? As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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