Sometimes it’s easy to think that our own profession is the only one under the microscope. I know when it comes to human resources, I’ve seen more than my fair share of the “I Hate HR” type articles. The other day, I saw a post titled, “Traditional Marketing is Broken” and for a moment I was relieved. Certainly not because the author was saying that marketing function is broken but because the business changes being demanded of us impact every function and every level of the organization.
The conversation happening in human resources is one of many happening within businesses. Our roles and responsibilities are changing. One of the things that immediately caught my attention during SHRM Education’s Business Acumen: Integrating HR Across Operations was the definition that the facilitator used in describing human resources. He talked about HR as being the function that manages change within the organization. Not managing people, but managing change.
That’s (subtly) different.
Of course, change involves people. But it really speaks to the evolving role of human resources and where HR can have the greatest impact. This article in Fortune talks about how companies are giving their employees more power and the role of human resources is to help those employees leverage that responsibility in a positive and productive way. (Side Note: The article quotes Marcus Buckingham, who is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s SHRM Annual Conference.)
The way I see it, in order for HR leaders to successfully manage change within the organization, they need to understand the operation. Correction: HR needs to do more than just understand the operation. They must become part of the operation. Not simply a “to-go” department people visit when they have a problem. Check out this video from Padma Thiruvengadam, vice president of operations at Pfizer Oncology, talking about her thoughts on the role of human resources.
The point was bigger than that. As human resources professionals, we need to learn the business speak of our industry and our organization. More importantly, we need to learn how to ask the questions that are going to help us learn the business of our company and industry. I thought one of the most poignant questions asked of us during the program was “Are we prepared to let our organization know what we do not know?”
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Think about that for a moment. As a HR leader, are you prepared to expose what you don’t know or is your plan to “fake it until you figure it out”? And the bigger question is, do you have time to figure it out on your own? Or do you need a book, class, course, mentor, etc. to help you gain the knowledge?
The business world is moving very quickly. We are all being asked to change. As HR leaders we need to have a firm grasp of basic business concepts like marketing mix, cash flow, supply chain and working capital. Business acumen allows us to be a part of the conversation. It provides us with the foundation to ask good questions about the new concepts emerging every day.
P.S. SHRM very graciously invited me to participate in this session. If you’d like to learn more about the sessions that SHRM is offering at the Annual Conference as well as around the country, check out the SHRM Education site.
Image – SHRM Logo and Video Used with Permission