I have personally witnessed HR’s evolution from the back room to the board room, from tactics to strategy, and to assuming ownership of the business and its outcomes. The HR profession has advanced dramatically since the days when I began my career as a recruiter, and we certainly have come a long way from the days of the “Personnel Department” managing things like payroll or vacation requests, and reporting into finance and accounting. I am proud of this evolution which I refer to as the professionalization of the human resources profession.
I have been most fortunate to be part of some great Canadian companies such as CAE Electronics, Bell Northern Research, Northern Telecom and CIBC where I gained both global HR and business expertise. Recently I became the Director of Corporate Services of DST Consulting Engineers Inc. I support the CEO, the senior leadership team and all our employees through the delivery of aligned HR strategies that support the business in achieving success.
So how does an HR Practitioner start their journey from entrant into the profession to becoming a CHRO or CEO? Well there are no steps to skip. First you need to develop your HR and business acumen. Whether you decide on an individual specialist or generalist career track you must roll up your sleeves and learn your craft and the business. To be successful as an HR practitioner you must both master core HR services and develop a structured holistic business alignment strategy that I refer to as the HR Framework.
The HR Framework
In its simplest form it is made up of five components:
1. Strategic Business Planning and HR Alignment
Encompassed in this component are board strategies, corporate vision, mission and values. HR is a pivotal player in facilitating the creation of a business roadmap. Tools such as strategic plans, employee engagement surveys and corporate SWOT analysis will validate decisions and outputs. Without such strategic business planning process skills, HR cannot be a full participant in the process. HR is called upon to make some unique contributions to this process such as organization design, leadership competencies, compensation philosophies and performance management.
2. Talent Acquisition (Attraction, Recruitment and Onboarding)
This second component is about understanding business requirements such as workforce planning, talent attraction, social media recruiting, employer brand, technical and skill projections, assessment tools, onboarding and regulatory training and deliverables of key competencies.
3. People Management
This third component includes employee communications, learning plans, business skills and competencies, training and employee development, internal promotion, performance management and improvement coaching, team optimization, management training and employee engagement.
4. Compensation, Rewards and Recognition
This fourth component refers to pay-for-performance, incentive programs, market data analytics, rewards, benefits, diversity and equity programs and board governance and HR committee compensation strategies.
5. Employee and Leadership Development
This fifth component includes leadership development program design, mentoring, on the job development and career development assignments, competency development and succession planning.
Making it Work
In order to enable all the above components work together, one must leverage HRMS data and analytics, keep abreast of regulatory employment practices, develop an acute understanding of change management and organizational development, and build strong relations with business partners and all stakeholders internal as well as external. Dave Ulrich puts it simply… to be effective as a CHRO one must deliver “operational excellence”. One has to deliver the basics flawlessly to gain a seat in the “C” suite. However the reward is huge and your contribution to the business’s success, shaping the firms strategy and your impact on the culture is immense.
The Future of the HR Profession
So what do I see in the future for the HR profession? The more enlightened CEOs are those that fundamentally understand that people are the only sustainable differentiator. Anyone can buy equipment and tools, copy processes, and drive success in the short term. However you can’t buy people’s energy, commitment, and creativity. That’s where HR comes in, creating engagement, the buy in to something bigger, the mission and meaning rather than the money that embeds long term sustainable business success.
Businesses can only gain competitive advantage through their people strategies. Talent management and leadership are critical to address the scarcity of resources and demographics. Today the pace of change in business is seismic, globalization is a reality and societal issues affect all our communities. There are many other business drivers too numerous to detail here. I truly believe that HR leaders must find ways to develop integrated HR strategies in order to create a sustainable HR /business framework.
I believe it is truly an exciting time for all human resources professionals. HR practitioners who understand all the linkages in terms of attraction, development motivation and retention will succeed. HR is fast becoming recognized as essential in facilitating organizational and business success. It really is our time as professionals! We need to “grab the bull by the horns” and prove once and for all that we belong in the “C” Suite.
About the Author
Philip C. Wilson, CHRL, CHRE, gained over thirty years of progressively responsible experience in business and the HR field. He is currently Director Corporate Services (formerly the Chief Human Resources Officer) for DST Consulting Engineers Inc. where he is responsible for the quality and depth of talent that differentiate DST in the marketplace, while supporting their ability to deliver on strategic goals. At Felix Global Corp., he provided board governance consulting advice, coached executives, delivered career transition support and facilitated business strategic planning. He provided global leadership as Vice President H.R. at Corel Corp. As Senior Vice President H.R. at CIBC Phil led a global, multi-functional team of HR professionals (125) responsible for CIBC’s executive leadership and training programs, organizational development, executive resourcing, global recruitment strategies, and business process outsourcing. Philip received the Queen’s University IRC Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Resources Industry at the 2015 HR Awards.
Ulrich, D. (1997). Human resource champions: The next agenda for adding value and delivering results. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.