As revenues decrease and margins get tighter, focus is shifted towards increased efficiency and effectiveness. Many corporations are weary about making adjustments to revenue producing sectors of the business so the support functions have been targeted for change. One particular department undergoing dramatic changes across multiple industries is the human resources department.
When earnings were plentiful, Human Resources consisted of many different sub-divisions such as: employee relations, learning and development, workforce planning, health and wellness, safety, recruiting, and so on. Fast-forward to today when everyone is struggling to meet analyst expectations on Wall Street and you get a bandwagon movement towards a package deal approach. The separate divisions within HR have been dismantled and bundled up into one generalist model.
Large corporations like Amazon, Conoco Phillips, Northrop Gruman and Volvo, to name a few, have transformed to meet shareholder expectations by developing the position of HR business partner. This revolution is demanding HR professionals with a wider skill set and deeper understanding of the overall business. As the title implies, a business partner is involved in the execution of all initiatives. Gone are the days when technical knowledge was enough to move you forward in your career. In the present and future, corporate America wants more!
So what does this mean to be an HR business partner? Partnership means not saying “that’s not part of my job”. Everyone is responsible for success. To foster this new culture everyone has to feel a sense of shared responsibility in the overall direction and vision. Although each department still brings an area of expertise to the table, think of how your knowledge and talents can add value to the entire team. This may mean sacrificing departmental goals in order to meet the needs of the business. The new role will entail making strategic decisions and giving extraordinary efforts as if the success or failure of the company depended on it. Industriousness will not be seen as a rare and attractive trait but rather a job requirement.
To sum it up, advancement and opportunities will only be given to those that bring the most overall value and have the ability to make things happen. The up and coming corporate superstars I have seen promoted time and time again give beyond what is asked for, are able to build effective relationships to drive results, and have the ability to make others around them better. In order to thrive in this new corporate structure, step away from “what’s in it for me” and leap towards “we can make this happen.” After all, partners are rewarded far better than employees.
I just finished reading an enlightening book about Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet members titled A Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin. It allowed me to trace back the roots of the many lessons and values we learned as children. The book uses anecdotes to display the qualities these great leaders possessed and is a true history lesson of how our “American” values were formed. However, these characteristics are not as prominent as their perceived importance has regrettably diminished in our modern society.
What history revealed was leadership in its most authentic form. At a very early age Lincoln was left with his sister to fend for themselves in the wild frontier instilling the perseverance he would be known for throughout the remainder of his life. The refusal to quit or accept failure is universally admired in all great leaders and managers but no one quite defined the term like President Lincoln did.
Throughout his presidency, some of his closest advisors rallied to garner opposition against his administration for their own selfish political gains. Lincoln never lashed out or used his authority to condemn; instead he fought disingenuousness with magnanimity. He understood that the well-being of the country came before all else. Lincoln was therefore willing to overlook the damage these deceitful advisors may have caused to his personal career. He forgave their petty antics so long as they continued to fulfill their obligations to the country.
Lincoln made regular visits to see the troops on the battlefields and hospitals where injured soldiers were cared for, a presidential tradition he started. This allowed him to feel the pulse of his people and understand the full impact of his decisions. His compassion for the soldiers was instantly recognized and appreciated by the troops. They were fighting for a leader they believed in and a leader who believed in them. Compassion gave Lincoln the edge that many of his rivals lacked.
When I think about the managers and leaders I most admire in my life, I think about their strong values. They had qualities; perseverance, magnanimity, and compassion, which made them extraordinary leaders easily distinguishable from all others. There is no reason these qualities should sound antiquated. Let’s not lose the honesty and sincerity in our approach with one another. In other words we have to be cautious of becoming a society focused on form, persuasion and rhetoric, rather than SUBSTANCE. Let’s bring authenticity back to leadership not because it may pay off but because it has moral meaning beyond benefits and rewards!
I got to a point in my career where I wanted more. I wanted to make a difference and was not satisfied with the status quo. I felt I had a good grasp on my job and was ready to take on more responsibility. The only problem was I was in a race with 600,000 other employees, some of whom felt the same way.
My answer was to do something the other 600,000 were not doing. For me, it was going back to school to get my Masters in Business Administration. I wanted to set myself apart from the rest of the pack. I didn’t want to be Bert employee # 349,999.
A year after going back to school, I got a promotion. I urge you to be proactive in your careers. Take the next step although it may be an uncomfortable one. As the old adage goes, it is the difficult things we do that make us better. Do something extra that you wouldn’t normally do and test yourself. I truly believe that great achievements are born out of extraordinary efforts.
What I have learned from this is that we can’t wait around. Don’t stand still and wait for your boss or the company you work for to decide if you are ready. Take the initiative and make that plunge. Create value in yourself that can’t be ignored by anyone. Make yourself ready for the opportunity and the opportunity will be more likely to present itself.