Why HR can’t live up to expectations

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Organisations are holding HR to a higher standard than ever before but – according to one chief talent officer – industry professionals simply can’t live up to those expectations.

“The expectations are so high that you can’t do everything, well I can’t do everything,” admits ACC’s Debbie Barrott. “I think it’s silly to think you can meet everybody’s expectations but what you can do is focus on the things that are the most important for the business.”

Wellington-based Barrott says all areas of the organisation now look to HR for input which means the function is pressed from all sides – but that doesn’t mean anybody had to be disappointed. In fact, Barrott says the challenge actually poses an opportunity for HR to build better partnerships within their organisation.

“Partnerships with the business are becoming increasingly important because of those higher expectations,” she says. “I rely on incredibly good partnerships with my colleagues so that I can understand the most effective thing I can be doing to help support their business and that helps me prioritise the work.”

For Barrott, there’s one way in particular that HR professionals can build partnerships while also improving their business knowledge.

“Go and spend some time in the business really understanding the pressure points and actually glean some feedback about how they think HR is helping them and if it’s doing a good job,” she says.

“That’s what it takes and I still do it – I might have come from the business but you can quite easily get consumed by the world you report to so I also encourage my people to go out there and do that too.”

Barrott says a strong understanding of the business – something most organizations are now demanding from their senior HR leaders – will earn HR more credibility and facilitate meaningful dialogue.

“We have to be much more outwardly focussed in terms of providing information and having good strong challenging debates with our colleagues about what we do and don’t do,” she says.

“We also have to really think about how we articulate things to the business because HR people have a particular perspective that the business doesn’t necessarily understand and it’s on us to be able to translate that into a thing that makes sense to the business.”

Debbie Barrott will be discussing the changing expectations of HR professionals at the upcoming HRM Leaders Forum where she will look at how HR can handle the increased visibility to deliver meaningful results to the C-suite.

Click here to find out more about the Auckland event, due to take place in November.

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