If your business has reached the point where you think that help with your HR management and strategy is the best next step, do you know how to successfully find the right and appropriately qualified person?

In some businesses, there is still a belief that HR added to a current employers workload as an ‘add-on.’ After all, anyone can do the ‘people stuff’ can’t they?  No, they can’t! 

Let me ask this question:  would you allow your beloved car to be serviced by someone, who is doing the work in his spare time, when his actual job is a window cleaner?  Or let your injury be treated by a person who happens to work somewhere in the hospital?  If something is important enough to you that you need someone to take care of it, then get the person who has training, knowledge and experience in that field, even at the most basic level.

HR professionals are just that:  professionally qualified people who have undertaken up to three years of study to gain their qualifications.  Qualifications are via the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development).

The most basic level of qualification to gain is the foundation level.  Even at this entry level, students will study and qualify in subjects such as: 

  • developing oneself as an effective human resources practitioner
  • understanding organisations and the role of human resources
  • recording, analysing and using human resources information
  • resourcing talent
  • supporting good practice in managing employment relations
  • supporting good practice in performance and reward management
  • contributing to the process of job analysis
  • supporting change within organisations

As you can see, even the most basically qualified HR professional will come to your organisation with a wealth of knowledge.  They will most likely also have some ‘on the job’ experience, allowing them to expand their skills on your behalf in your organisation.

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The Four Levels

There are four levels of professional HR qualification and experience.  Depending on the size of your organisation, you can decide what is the most appropriate level for you. This way you will gain the input you need to grow the ‘people’ aspect of your strategy, in line with the technical and financial needs.

We have defined these four as:  Administrative HR Assistant; Human Resources Manager; Human Resources Business Partner and HR Strategic Partner.

And just because the latter is the only one to be specifically called ‘strategic,’ it doesn’t mean that lower levels of expertise can’t contribute ideas, solutions and valuable information to your strategic growth direction.

The Administrative HR Assistant

When you have a small but growing number of staff, it’s important to ensure that they are correctly employed, on-boarded, paid and can work appropriately in the role that they have filled.

Paperwork, dotting i’s and crossing t’s is often seen as a boring subject.  But ignoring it, whether knowingly or unknowingly, can get an employer into serious trouble on many fronts.  Before anyone can be employed, the employer has to be sure that the person has a legal right to work in the UK and certain documents must be seen and retained on file.

As Britain’s potential departure from the EU becomes closer, it’s likely there will be a change in laws and regulations for the employment of non-British citizens which, for the first time, will include citizens from the EU.

No-one wants to get a visit from those lovely people at the UK Border and Immigration Agency to “just check your paperwork, Sir/Madam”.  For the HR professional such knowledge is second nature.  And when you get staff legally on board, you want to be sure that they can do the job, both in terms of your requirements and their ability.  Again, it would be in the remit of an HR Admin Assistant to ensure that on-boarding is done in a way that is satisfactorily controlled and managed.

What else can the Admin Assistant be responsible for?  Policies and procedures, checking that they are legal, and highlighting any change in the law that will require their updating. What’s more, they will ensure that every employee has a contract or a statement of terms and conditions; that they have a job description or a role profile and therefore know what is required of them. They can also advise on appropriate employee relations if/when things go wrong.

Quite a lot for a humble admin assistant.

The HR Manager

In addition to understanding and being able to carry out all of the above, the HR Manager is likely to specialise in two further important areas: 

  • employee capability, in particular, manager ability, development and growth
  • organisational change

If your business has good employees that you want to keep, how are you going to help them achieve their aspirations as they continue their best efforts on your behalf? 

How are you going to guarantee that the people who want to develop are going to do as well in a more senior role?  One of the most quoted examples of bad business decision-making is the promotion of people beyond their capabilities.  Often, those promoted have no experience of what comes with the new role: responsibility of managing other people.  And this can lead to disaster. 

It’s a well-known HR fact that people join a company but leave a manager.  Turnover is expensive.  How can you avoid loss of both staff and revenue?

The expertise of the HR Manager is to recognise the prospect of your strategic growth and put in place a review process that is fair to all staff. This also needs to offer opportunities to those who have not only performed well, in terms of reward, but also help identify what the development needs of staff are, who are likely to reach a managerial position.  By looking ahead and designing a programme of development, the HR Manager can ensure not only that the strategy remains on track, but that there is no loss of revenue through inappropriate advancements.

The second arm of this HR Manager speciality is to work with current managers to enhance their ability to manage the organisational changes that will come through business growth.  You may have excellent managers who are currently doing a good job, but they will need to have the skills to maintain business performance and keep their staff on-board during times of change.  This may be in situations such as TUPE, where the business grows quickly through acquisition.  The HR Manager’s knowledge of, not only TUPE regulations, but of the cultural challenges that come with the integration of two workforces, is crucial.  On the other hand, if the company decides to downsize part of its business, for reasons such as importing new technology, then this may lead to redundancies. This is a situation in which the specialised knowledge of the HR Manager will be vital to ensure that the process is undertaken legally, fairly and compassionately.

An overhead photo of 3 people interviewing a candidate with the middle person shaking their hand

The HR Business Partner

At the level of HR Business Partner (HRBP), there is a closer alignment of HR to the business strategy.

Here, the HRBP will have a clear knowledge of the business strategy.  They may not have played a part in its development but they will be able to input the knowledge and experience needed to prepare the business for its future change and growth.

A particular speciality of the HRBP will be the development of leadership.  As the organisation grows, the ability to lead, not just manage, will be an essential aspect of business success.

With their knowledge of leadership, and full understanding of the business values and culture, the HRBP will be able to expand the review process to include talent management, and can design the competencies future leaders will require.

Whilst the HR Manager tends to focus on critical issues, the HRBP will be focused on the future, in a role that is more consultative then managerial.  For example, the HRBP will work with the hiring manager when looking to hire important roles, to understand strategic goals that the manager has for the position and ensure that these are factored into the process.

The HR Strategic Partner

The role of the HR strategic partner (HRSP) is to make sure HR policy and procedure throughout the organisation fits the needs, goals and aims of the organisation and its most senior leadership.  This position is likely to be found only in bigger organisations, but as a company grows it may feel that its people strategy is sufficiently important to have an HR Strategic Partner on board at an early stage. 

I personally worked for a company as an HR strategic partner that had 20 employees when I joined, based all in the UK. Within 18 months it had over 100 across six European Countries.  Being involved in all discussions about growth and people, from the beginning, was invaluable to ensure that the company got the right people with the right skills and the right values at the right time, all aligned to its financial capabilities and technical requirements.

Where there is an HRSP, the transactional work can be outsourced or self-serviced, requiring technology. There is plenty available in the current market that is relatively easy to implement and maintain.

Being involved from the start in the strategic plan, the HRSP will be capable of both designing and  leading the way on issues such as organisational development and change management.

A final word on the involvement of HR – at any phase of growth and development there are organisations such as Petaurum Solutions that can provide input and expertise at each of these stages.  Having spent our careers in HR, we’ve experienced every level of HR participation and contribution to business strategy.  Get in touch if you think we can help and advise you.

An overhead photo of 3 people's arms and hands working with human resource strategy documents