How Do I: Launch a New Project?

This is the latest in my “How Do I” series of blogs. Readers are encouraged to provide feedback and suggest additional topics for this series.  See my contact information at the end of this post.

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Recently, a former colleague reached out to talk about how to handle a new assignment.  He has never led a team before because he’s always been a “technical guy”.  This is a technical project but for the first time, he has been thrust into a leadership position. 

What makes it even more challenging is that his team will be comprised of volunteers from other functions in the organization.  These volunteers have (or will have) negotiated with their managers to be released for a certain number of hours per week or month to participate in the project.  Their motivation is to get involved in something different that will deliver valuable results for the various areas of the office.  In some cases, they also see this as an opportunity to build some new technical muscle.

As a last piece of context for you, the project is intended to deliver quick automation solutions to enhance efficiency and quality in various business processes.  The members of the team and others will submit suggestions for processes to be enhanced by the team.

This post is not intended as a comprehensive discussion of Project Management.  That is way out scope!  But the following are the thoughts and suggestions I am sharing with him:

  • Get crystal clear about a few things:
    • What are the objectives – in other words, what will success look like?
    • Who is the executive sponsor for the project?  If there is no executive sponsor – get one!  It is almost a certainty that at some point there will be a resource and timing conflict.  The executive sponsor can help resolve those kinds of challenges.
    • What is the lifespan of the project?  When is it expected to begin, deliver results, and ultimately end?  Projects should have a “sunset” clause.  Projects should not go on indefinitely.
  • Build a common purpose for the team
    • Create a simple statement that describes who the team is, what they will do, how they will do it and the expected outcomes.  This common purpose (or mission statement if you prefer) will be the project’s North Star.  If things get muddled – as they often do in the real world – this set of words will help to bring things back into focus.  Sailors used to navigate by the North Star.  The team can navigate more easily if it has a common purpose.
    • Have a kickoff meeting for the team.  Share the common purpose and invite feedback from the members.  The objective here is to get buy-in to the overall objectives.  It will be perfectly fine if the common purpose statement gets modified.  If the group achieves agreement, you will have a stronger chance of ultimate success because everyone will “get it” from the beginning. 
    • Facilitating the kickoff meeting is not in scope for this post. But it is important that each team member be able to have the opportunity to express their thoughts and share why they are volunteering for this project.  My friend will learn a lot about the individual members and the “chemistry” of the team with a well-run kickoff meeting.
  • Create a simple process to define priorities.  If the team members and others in the office can submit ideas, the team will need a way to evaluate the ideas and assign team resources. I’m suggesting some easy criterion
    • How much effort will the idea take?
    • What is the expected savings – either in people hours or costs?
    • How urgent is the problem the idea is trying to solve?

There are always trade-offs in assigning priorities.  But these few bits of objective data will help to evaluate the return on investment opportunities.

  • Check in with your team members
    • Have regularly scheduled team meetings to review shared progress
    • This creates an opportunity for team members to consult with each other as may needed
    • Be sure to make time for one on one check ins with individual team members.  This will give them the chance to discuss matters they may not want to share in a more public forum.  Of course, the degree of need for the one on ones will vary from culture to culture.
  • Measure your progress and be transparent about reporting out
    • The things you got crystal clear on can probably be transformed into a set of objectives metrics
    • Review the proposed metrics with the executive sponsor and be sure to get her buy-in
    • One metric I’m suggesting is to track how accurate the team is at estimating the effort required to deploy a solution they have created.  I think it will help them refine their estimation skills.  Over time, that will help them manage their customers’ expectations.
    • Ask for help when you need it.
      • This is one big reason why you need an executive sponsor.
      • Many, if not most, projects hit speed bumps.  It’s normal.  I want my friend to understand that it is not a failure to get help when its needed.  Rather, it’s a symbol of maturity.

If you found this post useful, please share your feedback.  I welcome your thoughts.  If you need help addressing a people management challenge, please contact me at:

ken@somershrsolutions.com

+1 508-507-1207 

Strategic HR is Not Only Organizational Structure

Introduction:

Our previous post in this series promised to explore some common pitfalls we have observed that undermine the delivery of effective HR solutions. This post is intended to set the stage for subsequent blog entries that will delve into individual Centers of Excellence and how they and HR Business Partners interact.  Those posts will discuss some of the challenges and opportunities and will present solutions for practitioners to consider.

Ulrich redux:

We return to Dave Ulrich and his framework to enable a more strategic and less administrative approach to HR. In brief, he envisioned that HR would operate as small teams or individuals working collaboratively with managers of the organizations in carrying out strategic management and key initiatives. Accompanying that was the need to set up structures to segment administrative and operational work from that of the work that created business value.

At no time did the framework prescribe a specific organizational structure or service delivery model. That was left to practitioners. With the benefit of hindsight we now know that many organizations took Ulrich’s framework and applied it primarily by changing organizational structures.  In the process, other drivers of organizational effectiveness were frequently underweighted.  We forgot that structure is not strategy.

Organizational theorist Jay Galbraith’s Star ModelTM1  illustrates the need to go beyond structure as a determinant of organizational effectiveness. He identifies four additional dimensions, Strategy, People, Rewards and Processes, as critical to bring about a holistic approach to creating an effective organization. Put simply, in the rush to “be strategic” many HR departments changed the structure and neglected or gave short shrift to the other dimensions of organizational effectiveness.

Today we see an almost ubiquitous HR organizational structure and attendant service delivery model embodying three core HR disciplines:

  • The HR Business Partner (HRBP) e.g., an individual or small team facing off to a line of business as its central point of contact for all things HR;
  • The Centers of Expertise (COE), e.g., total rewards, talent acquisition talent development, organization development); and,
  • The Operational/Administrative Service Center, e.g., call centers designed to field, address and/or escalate administrative questions and problems that arise from the employee population.

As noted in an earlier post, HR leadership at the time of Ulrich’s call to action, many of whom came of age during the administrative and transactional era of HR, assumed that the role formerly known as “HR Generalist” would, through the alchemy of a new name, transform  to embody the full range of capabilities and responsibilities associated with “being strategic.”

Learning how a business works, being fluent in other functional areas of HR, applying well-developed consultative and diagnostic skills and possessing the confidence to be the orchestrator instead of the heroic doer is not addressed solely by changing organizational structure. While HR Generalists were transforming into HRBP’s, areas of HR that had developed solutions for compensation, benefits, training, recruitment, were configured into small teams of subject matter experts who would develop products and services to be deployed to the organization.

Finally, teams were developed to respond to the vast array of administrative issues that exist in all organizations ranging from, employment verification to background checking to migrating employees and managers to self-service tasks such as address and phone number changes.

Focusing on structure and underweighting integrating mechanisms, upskilling, role clarity and internal service level agreements has spawned an HR model that frequently highlights the worst in the three core functional HR areas.   Rather than harvesting the synergy across them, practitioners have often created competing fiefdoms. Consider, for a moment, the most pejorative stereotype associated with each of the core HR areas:

  • HRBP – Territorial gate keepers of the client relationship and hoarders of information
  • Centers of Expertise – Out of touch purveyors of rigid and one-size-fits-all programs and solutions
  • Operational Service Centers – Error-prone backroom clerks creating bottlenecks and delays

While we dramatize a bit for impact, the current model in many organizations falls short of delivering strategic business value.  We believe this delivery model has become overly specialized and each functional area, in its own way, has become insular and self-serving.

While there is no doubt that some organizations have developed strong, strategic HR departments they are exceptions. Ed Lawler and John Boudreau’s “Human Resource Excellence,” (2018)2 covering a longitudinal study dating back more than 20 years concludes that HR has failed to move from service and administration provider to strategic contributor. Among other things they found:

  • HR has not significantly changed how it allocates its time since the first application of their research study in 1995;
  • HR executives consistently report that they spend more time providing strategic services than they did five to seven years ago, but the longitudinal data do not support that conclusion; and,
  • In all of the reporting countries, HR spends a majority of its time on services, controlling and record keeping.

The activities that differentiate HR as a strategic partner, for example, Strategic Workforce Planning, Integrated Talent Management, Organization Development and Design, to name three, remain situated in COEs and are commonly subordinated to the day-to-day, short cycle and reactive work often demanded of and by HRBPs.  HRBPs, in turn, remain mired in transactions and compliance.  Many HRBP’s struggle, through inability or lack of will, to fully leverage the COE capability to deliver genuine business value.

Conclusion:

Boudreau, Lawler and others have made clear that HR has not risen to the occasion. What Ulrich envisioned has not, in the main, been realized in many organizations. When we revisit Ulrich’s Principles:

  • Operate as small teams or individuals,
  • Work collaboratively with managers of the organizations in carrying out strategic management and key initiatives, and
  • Set up structures to segment administrative and operational work from that of the work that creates business value,

many would argue that HR departments have indeed applied those Principles and use them to guide action.

When viewed from an organizational structure perspective, that is largely true.  However we believe that HR organizations need to fully explore the other elements of Galbraith’s model – Strategy, People, Rewards and Processes – as ways to optimize the Business Partnership concept and more fully realize the goal of delivering strategic HR aligned to business strategy.

What’s next?

Our next blog will address how HRBP’s can better partner with and leverage the expertise that resides in the Compensation COE. 

About the authors:

Louis Scenti is the Founder and President of Cognoscenti Associates, a consultancy specializing in executive and leadership coaching and organizational consulting. Prior to founding Cognoscenti Associates, Louis worked for more than 30 years as a practitioner of leadership development, organization development and talent management for several premier financial services firms, most recently as the Chief Talent Officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

He is currently an Adjunct Lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies in the Human Capital Management Masters Degree program. 

Somers HR Solutions  is an independent consultancy dedicated to helping business leaders and their teams diagnose and solve people management challenges.  Managing Partner, Ken Somers, is especially adept at coaching HR Business Partners and business leaders to enhance their organizational impact.  He is passionate about delivering “answers for the real world.”

Ken’s career spans more than 40 years as both an HR practitioner and executive leader.  In addition to his domestic experiences, he has lived and worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, India, and Malaysia.  Ken completed his most recent assignment as the interim country head for an insurance company’s back office operation in Poland.  Ken’s vast international experience enables him to bring a multicultural and multi-generational perspective to solving client challenges.

  1. Jay Galbraith, The Star Model, jaygalbraith.com
  2. Human Resource Excellence: An Assessment of Strategies and Trends, Edward E. Lawler III an John W. Boudreau, Stanford Business Books, 2018

What Does it Really Mean to be a Strategic HR Business Partner? Part 2

Our prior post introduced the need for HR Business Partners (HRBP’s) to understand the business they support.  And we closed with the beginning of a discussion on delivering on commitments.  We’ll expand on that point here by talking about some of the key capabilities we’ve seen the most successful HRBP’s deploy.


Brief Recap

We have argued that to be successful as an HRBP you need to:

  • Understand the business(es) you support
  • Establish the foundation of trusted relationship with your client(s)
  • Do both of these things in the context of the client’s world – not the HR world

Now that the foundation of your relationship is in place, its time to build on it.

Delivering on Your Commitments, continued

To be viewed as a genuinely strategic partner, you need several critical capabilities.  Among these and in no particular order are:

  • Ability to listen actively
  • Confidence to influence and negotiate successfully
  • Capacity for navigating in the gray areas
  • Flexibility to adapt to evolving business needs and externalities
  • Time and calendar management

While this is not an exhaustive list, it represents some of the most commonly – and frequently – used capabilities an HRBP needs to deliver on commitments and achieve success.  In other words, let’s talk briefly about the tools the HRBP needs to be outcomes oriented.

Active Listening

Active Listening means fully paying attention to the other person speaking.  Many refer to the “3 A’s” of active listening:

  • Attitude – that your mind is open to hearing and absorbing what the speaker has to say without pre-judging that content
  • Attention – your concentration is on absorbing what the other person is saying, understanding the content and frequently, the context of that content
  • Adjustment – we live in a short attention span world. Sometimes, the other person will take you down a verbal rabbit hole before getting to the “good stuff”.  Adjusting your style to control impatience and hearing the other person out is a key component of successful active listening

There are other dimensions to quality active listening such as paying attention to body language and other nonverbal cues. Since this is intended as a brief explanation of the critical HRBP capabilities, we won’t go further other than to say that another critical dimension of active listening involves posing follow up questions to clarify your understanding.

Influence and Negotiation

Your client has a need.  Because you’ve been listening actively, you have a solid grasp of that need, when it has to be satisfied, and some idea of what it will take to achieve the desired outcome.  With no pejorative intent, it’s probably safe to say that most business leaders are eager to get stuff done and to move on to the next challenge.  How are you going to respond?

A good HRBP will understand what’s needed – and be clear headed enough to separate that from what’s wanted –  and place it in the context of the business environment, the client’s pressure points (the stuff that keeps her awake at night), and his/her own capacity, access to resources, and dependencies on others – perhaps one of the COE’s.  Discussing the when and the how of delivering on the client’s expressed need is a de facto negotiation.

Some questions to consider include:

  • Does the outcome need to be delivered in a “big bang” or can it be broken into phases?
  • What subject matter expertise is needed to fully diagnose the issue(s) and develop a solution?
  • Don’t forget to consider resources from the business unit – you may need time and expertise from one or more members of the client’s team
  • Do one or more HR COE’s need to be involved?  How and when to pull them in (more on this in upcoming posts on the HRBP/COE relationship)?  Are those upon whom you are dependent able to respond in a timely manner?
  • Is this really the most important thing to do now for the business?  Are other priorities more urgent or impactful in what they will deliver?  Will those initiatives be compromised if you dedicate resource to this need at this time?
  • If the client has predetermined a less viable solution, are there alternative ways to address the issue that will yield an equally satisfactory outcome?

It’s probably obvious this is not a comprehensive list of questions to ponder. However, the answers to these and other relevant questions frame how you should respond and negotiate the deliverables of the business need.  Unless the business need is obvious and simple to address, we recommend buying yourself a bit of time to think through the conversation, develop answers to the sample reflection questions, and present a thoughtful response to your client.  In our experience, clients generally respect the need to think through complexity and value being presented with a well thought out response.  Remember, once you commit, your credibility is on the line.

Navigating the Gray

At times, neither you nor your client will have all the information needed to arrive at a succinct problem statement, let alone a solution.  Genuinely strategic HRBP’s usually relish these situations because the absence of clarity can present a playing field where creative answers may be possible. Our advice is to embrace the muddle.

These circumstances present an opportunity to thought partner with your client or their designee(s) to define and address the business matter.  A variety of techniques are available but a discussion of them is beyond the scope of this piece. The key takeaway from this point is not to let a lack of clarity create angst or frustration.  Rather, view it as an opportunity to dissect a problem and demonstrate your partnership in developing a solution.

Flexibility to address an evolving situation

How many times did you develop an answer to a problem only to have the client postpone a discussion because some more urgent need has emerged? We know – you spent a jillion hours figuring out an elegant solution to some really fuzzy problem and you’re excited to show off your brilliance.  Get over it.  The likelihood is that the original problem has not gone away.  Something that is temporarily more important came up.  You’ll have the chance to address the original matter another time.

But your ability to shift your focus (remember some of the active listening tips) to your client’s pressing matter demonstrates your alignment with her and your ability to maturely adapt to the needs of the business. The chances are that she wants a solution to the original problem just as much as you do.  Gratification will just have to be delayed. We believe this ability to flexibly adapt is an emerging hallmark of genuine strategic success.  Think about how hard or easy it has been for you, your team, and your business to adapt to the current COVID situation.  We’re sure every organization has lessons-learned from the current environment.  What are yours and what do they say about how you and your organization’s need to adapt going forward?

Time & Calendar Management

The message here is simple.  Control your calendar and the time in it – or it will control you.  Very few of us have total control over this and it’s a lesson some of us (the authors included) learned the hard way.  There is a vast array of tools and techniques available to help you.  But for most of us, the allure of fancy planners and apps that take more time to learn than use are not needed.  We suggest answering the following questions:

  • What are the priorities that matter the most to my key stakeholders?
  • What do you need to do?
  • When are the various things due?
  • How much time will they each require?
  • How much time do I spend each day messing around on the web?
  • Who needs to sign off before I can present an answer? And how much time do they need to respond?
  • How complex is each item?
  • What is the business impact of each?
  • What dependencies do I have for each item?

Once you have the answers to these and other questions that are important to you, it should be a simple matter to prioritize your action plan.  Just remember to allow yourself that messing around time.  Temporarily taking yourself away from a pressing matter can actually help spark answers.

Conclusion

There are many dimensions to achieving a genuinely strategic HRBP relationship with your clients.  We believe that if you master the capabilities discussed in this post, you will be well on your way to demonstrating your value to your client and the broader organization.

Next

Our next post will actually take a step back and we will revisit Dave Ulrich’s model.  We’re doing that to set the stage for the exploration of how HRBP’s can best interact and partner with COE’s.

About the authors:

Louis Scenti is the Founder and President of Cognoscenti Associates, a consultancy specializing in executive and leadership coaching and organizational consulting. Prior to founding Cognoscenti Associates, Louis worked for more than 30 years as a practitioner of leadership development, organization development and talent management for several premier financial services firms, most recently as the Chief Talent Officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

He is currently an Adjunct Lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies in the Human Capital Management Masters Degree program. 

Somers HR Solutions  is an independent consultancy dedicated to helping business leaders and their teams diagnose and solve people management challenges.  Managing Partner, Ken Somers, is especially adept at coaching HR Business Partners and business leaders to enhance their organizational impact.  He is passionate about delivering “answers for the real world.”

Ken’s career spans more than 40 years as both an HR practitioner and executive leader.  In addition to his domestic experiences, he has lived and worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, India, and Malaysia.  Ken completed his most recent assignment as the interim country head for an insurance company’s back office operation in Poland.  Ken’s vast international experience enables him to bring a multicultural and multi-generational perspective to solving client challenges.

How Do I: Manage a Remote Underperformer?

We all know that COVID is not going away any time soon.  Many people managers are evaluating performance remotely for the first time in their careers.  This blog post is intended to offer some practical suggestions to help managers address the challenge of managing difficult performance situations remotely.

Are the Basics in Place

Assure that all your direct reports actually have written performance objectives.  If one or more do not, clarify and document those objectives.  While this post is not about writing objectives, the tried and true approach to preparing performance objectives is typically known as SMART: 

  • Specific – each objective is characterized by clear criteria for success
  • Measurable – the objective can be objectively quantified
  • Achievable – a reasonable person would agree that the objective can be attained
  • Relevant – the objective is appropriate to the employee’s role and experience level
  • Timebound – the objective is to be attained by a particular point in time

By the way, if you are a manager of managers, it’s a good idea to make sure your managers have gone through a similar exercise with their people.

Reality Check

The world has changed for many, if not most employees and their managers.  Therefore, the first action we suggest after confirming a set of objectives actually exists is to revisit those objectives with the employee.  In reviewing those objectives together, test to make sure they remain relevant and can be achieved under the circumstances.  Is everything clear?  Do you and the employee share a common understanding of the expectations and deliverables behind the words of the document?  If the objectives need to be adjusted, that’s okay.  Performance plans should be thought of as living documents, in any event.  Business conditions change all the time.  The current conditions are an extreme example but changing environments are not unusual.

What’s Going On?

Engage in a conversation with your underperforming employee.  If this is the first time you are observing underperformance, you should seek to understand if something unusual is affecting the employee’s ability to successfully deliver.  With so many people juggling a variety of care responsibilities with work obligations, some flexibility in the nature of and/or timing of deliverables may easily address the problem.  You may need to help manage expectations others may have of this employee in order to accommodate more flexibility.  This is a judgement call you’ll need to make.  That’s why you’re the manager.

On the other hand, if this is the latest manifestation of a previously known performance challenge the key next action is to be constructively candid with the employee about your observations.  A simple, 4-step approach that works well is to

  • Identify (name) the issue
  • Explain why it is important
  • Demonstrate with one or more examples how the employee’s lack of success impacts others or the business
  • Clearly describe what change you expect and when or how (or both)

Document

Nobody likes to do this.  It takes time, it’s not fun, and feels uncomfortable.  But it’s important to codify those actions to which you and your employee have agreed.  The agreements you have reached become the basis for follow on actions.  It confirms there is a shared understanding of your mutual expectations.  To further verify you and the employee have a shared understanding, I like to have the employee prepare the documentation for your subsequent review and discussion. 

By having the employee prepare the agreed actions, you attain greater certainty that there is no misunderstanding.  I typically will ask the employee to send a draft of the document within 24 hours.  If everything is consistent with your discussion, then all you have to do is confirm receipt and agreement.  Otherwise you have the opportunity to promptly renew the discussion and reach clear shared understanding.

Follow Up

Most managers have regularly scheduled check-ins with their employees.   If you don’t already, get on regular a schedule with this employee. Make the scheduling appropriate to the work to be done and the time sensitivity of that work.   Be sure to review the action plan (documentation) at each catch up to evaluate the employee’s progress. Doing this consistently creates structure and accountability around your expectations.  Although it’s okay to adjust the action plan if appropriate, be cautious.  A constantly shifting set of objectives will make it that much more difficult to attain a satisfactory outcome – for both you and the employee.

Closing Out

Once the employee is back on track, confirm to each other that the objectives have been met to each other’s satisfaction.  All things being equal, you should now be able to resume a more routine check-in and performance monitoring relationship.

Final Thoughts

The suggestions presented here are necessarily generic.  There can be many variations of performance challenges and each may require a different approach.  Please contact me if you or a colleague want to discuss your unique situation.

What Does it Really Mean to be a Strategic HR Business Partner?

Part 1 of ??

Our introductory article laid out the foundation of today’s HR Business Partner role.  In this post, we begin to identify and explain the critical capabilities an HR Business Partner needs in order to excel at the job.


Many HR Business Partners (HRBP) don’t start their careers in these roles.  Frequently, they have succeeded in one or more of the HR sub-disciplines and have grown, over time, into the HRBP role. This article presumes the HRBP already possesses subject matter expertise in one or more of those sub-disciplines.   To be genuinely successful as an HRBP, several additional critical capabilities are required.  This post begins a discussion of those capabilities.

Understanding the Business

This does not mean you have to know how to be a salesperson (more on this in later posts) or know how to design a product.  It does mean that the HRBP must have a solid understanding of the business.  You can translate that vague statement into a series of questions:

  • How does your company make money?
  • What is the organization’s business strategy?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What risks and opportunities does your organization face in its microenvironment (think of your office, plant, or other business unit)?
  • What are the risks and opportunities in the macro environment (think of your industry and the broader economy)?
  • What capabilities can be deployed against those risks and opportunities?
  • Are critical capabilities missing and if so, how should that gap be mitigated?

The list could go on at some length but you get the idea.  Understanding the basics of your business and the environment in which it operates is table stakes for being effective as an HRBP.  This is because in most cases, your clients want to partner with someone who “gets it”.  Demonstrating a solid understanding of your customer’s business is a key differentiator between a transactional HRBP and a trusted advisor.  So, how do you build business knowledge?

Start by listening.  Get time with the leaders you support.  Ask them to help you build deeper awareness about their part of the business.  What keeps them awake at night?  Whose opinions do they respect?  Understand how decisions are made in the organization.  Who gets consulted on what kinds of decisions? Who are the key players on their teams and why?  Get time with those people and ask similar questions.  Frequently, these key players exercise a great deal of informal influence. 

After your initial round of meetings, summarize your new insights in a document.  Use whatever format works best for you and how your brain works but it should include at a minimum:

  • Who and their official role
  • What are their business objectives?
  • What does a day in their life look like?
  • Who do they talk to and why?
  • What are their challenges and opportunities?
  • Think about their personal style – do you prefer to communicate by email or in live conversations?

You may have noticed that none of this is about the HR function.  You will have plenty of opportunity to engage about HR matters.  But that is not the starting point to build a relationship with your customers.  This inquiry is about them, their parts of the business, and their pain points so those insights can inform your agenda and how you can add value to their world.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume your client is the organization’s CFO.  There are some basic things you should be able to do to engage with your client.

  • Can you read the organization’s balance sheet?
  • Is your industry stable or is it vulnerable to disruption?
  • Do you understand the key cost drivers in the business?
  • What are the challenges in attaining the business plan?
  • Are there external influences that represent either costs or risks to the organization – examples could include things like regulatory requirements or multi-state/cross-border employment-related matters.

These are discussion-starters to enable your relationship with the CFO.  S/he/they will want to see that you understand the challenges they face on a regular basis and in the context of their job. Successfully executing on this critical first step is what will get you in the door with your client, engendering their trust and leading to them involving you in evermore consequential issues.  Next it is time to deliver.

Delivering on Your Commitments

You have established initial credibility with your client.  Congratulations.  Notice we said initial.  All the hard work of listening to and understanding the fundamentals of your business will be for naught unless your client also thinks that s/he/they can depend on you.  This is also where you begin to distinguish yourself as a partner instead of an “order-taker”. 

Let’s visit that point for a moment.  As you will see as the rest of this series develops, we will assert that truly exceptional HRBP’s have established a level of credibility and trust where their perspective is sought out within the organization at all levels.  Like most things, there is a continuum.  Many people have excellent careers by being superb at delivering what the client wants when and how the client wants it.  Our exceptional HRBP does that too – when it is the right thing to do for the business; not sometimes, all the time.  Thus, the exceptional HRBP is a business professional who specializes in the human capital dimension of running a business.

In the typical HRBP/COE model, the HRBP is the primary HR point of contact for a business leader.  To fulfill their role, the HRBP must establish and nurture partnerships with the COE’s.  This is why it can be so valuable for the HRBP to have spent part of their career in one or more COE roles. 

In our next entry we will:

  • expand on the importance of delivering and begin an exploration of the HRBP-COE relationship,
  • the conditions that lead a successful HRBP-COE partnership,
  • and some common pitfalls we have observed that can undermine the delivery of effective HR solutions.

About the authors:

Louis Scenti is the Founder and President of Cognoscenti Associates, a consultancy specializing in executive and leadership coaching and organizational consulting. Prior to founding Cognoscenti Associates, Louis worked for more than 30 years as a practitioner of leadership development, organization development and talent management for several premier financial services firms, most recently as the Chief Talent Officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

 He is currently an Adjunct Lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies in the Human Capital Management Masters Degree program. 

Somers HR Solutions  is an independent consultancy dedicated to helping business leaders and their teams diagnose and solve people management challenges.  Managing Partner, Ken Somers, is especially adept at coaching HR Business Partners and business leaders to enhance their organizational impact.  He is passionate about delivering “answers for the real world.”

Ken’s career spans more than 40 years as both an HR practitioner and executive leader.  In addition to his domestic experiences, he has lived and worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, India, and Malaysia.  Ken completed his most recent assignment as the interim country head for an insurance company’s back office operation in Poland.  Ken’s vast international experience enables him to bring a multicultural and multi-generational perspective to solving client challenges.