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Changing Role of HR Change Agent, Innovator and Strategic Partner
Abhay Valsangkar
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
It is relatively easy for the HR professionals to sense and feel that our roles are in the state of continuous transformation.

HR professionals have been donning different hats in different contexts. Historically, HR drew all its existential powers by placing itself at the center of administrative activities within the business organization they supported. The cap it wore then was that of a powerful BABU. But that’s a very old story now! He later graduated to become an HR specialist and slowly transformed into an

Employee Champion building a fine bridge between the enterprise and its employee community. The winds of changes on the world economic front intensified as we reached the turn of the millennium and the system demanded yet one more transformation in HR functionaries. HR professionals then became Human Capital Developers, entirely focusing on continually augmenting human capital of the organization by trying to attract and retain talent.

And now is the time to wear the hat of a Strategic Partner. It’s a fairly broad based role and daunting at the same time. Broad based because being a strategic partner has multiple dimensions such as business expert, change agent, knowledge manager and a consultant. And daunting because the HR professional community may or may not be fully equipped to digest and keep up with the scope of challenges arising from this role.

Traditionally, many HR professionals have derived power out of their power to say ‘no.’ And the time has now come to realize that they no longer can cling on to that power. At the same time, its heartening that they are doubly empowered to shape tomorrow’s business. This power to shape tomorrow’s business can only happen in a leading fashion and not a lagging fashion. Let me give an example over here.

Fiercely competing organizations in the New Economy have applied tremendous pressure on the available talent leading to War for Talent. Attractive employee referral bonus schemes, tapping talent from small towns or brand promotion via newer media such as radio are all good and effective ways of trying to boost the talent search in a lagging way. These efforts lag the demand for talent. However, catching the young talent upstream right at the school, working on it in an organized way in anticipation of the future talent needs, is a leading way of managing the same talent issue.

HR will have to take every opportunity to sit at the front-end of the business and partner with the business owners to shape tomorrow’s organizations. And for being successful there are certain paradigms that need to be challenged and changed. Talent acquirers have to become talent builders; performance appraisal administrators have to become career experts; HR administrators have to become functional experts; compensation and benefit managers have to become value providers; trainers have to become OD professionals.

And why did I have a little bit of worry on our state of preparedness? It’s just because we need to consciously internalize what’s happening around us and what changes are expected out of us as tomorrow’s HR professionals. Our dedication, commitment and a ‘will to win’ will always remain central to our future success but our ability to understand the businesses we support, the industry we operate in, and the socio-economic context around us is extremely fundamental.
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