Having a strategic mindset / business orientation is key to achieving success for HR professional. Needless to say, Business Leader's Buy-In becomes easy when you talk their language and leaders want to interact with smart HR professionals who can add value to them and in turn their business. Hence, irrespective of your level (fresher / executive / lead) or your Title or your function (recruitment / business partner / operations / COE / LnD) making an impact to the business and business leaders is important.
So here are 5 ways to develop Business Orientation for HR
BE BUSINESS OBJECTIVE DRIVEN PERSON
One of the key aspect of becoming a good HR is developing acumen to understand business. This does require one to unlearn and relearn multiple times.
One of the behaviour I developed while I started working as HR is , as soon as I join the organisation, I spend a day or 2 understanding business, spend time with business leaders, understand their business model, workflow, sectors, etc... If its not a part of my onboarding, I used to make special requests for same. :)
Understanding Business helps to understand and estimate manpower needs, manpower challenges, skill sets, competencies for each role, what motivates that workforce, what kind of recognition program can be successful, industry norms, external competition, etc...
Spend some time everyday day to analyse the business and HR data. I call it my "Thinking Time". It can be before you start your day / at the end of day.
Are there any Hick-ups? Of course Yes!!
- if you are new to this approach, Initially, it might be difficult to map business needs and map HR strategy accordingly. It might need extensive research / time. But hey, eventually it becomes a habit and way of thinking. :)
- In larger organisations, this work of mapping business objectives to HR objectives is already done, however, I believe HR still needs to spend some time understand why the specific program or strategy is implemented. In long run, it will help to understand the relevance of same and aid to continuous improvement.
BE NUMBERS DRIVEN PERSON
Numbers speak more than words.
I learnt very early in my career to talk the language of numbers and draw conclusions based on numbers. Any program / initiative / work done should have a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that is being tracked, measured and evaluated to come up with an improvement plan. As HR, it is easy to get sidetracked as one is dealing with people and their emotions, grievances, concerns, suggestions. Ask yourself how does it tie up to the change that you want to bring in. Also don't forget, before you read and analyse numbers, it is important to track numbers accurately.
For E.g. In one of the organisation, I wanted to improve the onboarding process because I had heard multiple grievances about onboarding not being effective. Rather than jumping on the conclusion and bringing in any change, I spent some time understanding numbers like how many resignations are coming up in probation period / first 3 months of employee joining the organisation (I focused on resigned date rather than LWD, because that gives more accurate information on employee deciding to leave the organisation because of some dissatisfaction. Also once the employee resigns there is a notice period to be served which will take the resignation out of the time frame for which I wanted to draw conclusion for), How many grievances are coming up and to which area of onboarding process it relates to?, What is the performance rating of colleagues in the first review and where is the gap?, etc... All these numbers helped to understand the exact gap and hence I proposed buddy programming as part of onboarding program and it was accepted and appreciated by my seniors and business and I was able to implement with ease.
Hope the above example helps to understand how being numbers driven is important for business to understand what value HR is trying to add and why.
UNDERSTAND BUSINESS GAPS AND CATER WITH THE SOLUTION
Another Key Skill of a good HR professional is to listen to unsaid words. In my experience, I have met many colleagues who are not able to articulate the improvement but they surely know and do communicate that there is a need for improvement in certain areas of employee lifecycle. If you are a HR who can pin the exact need and cater with the solution, you are surely going to be respected by them. Some of the ways you are do the same is
a) Understand your business well and study what are the competitor companies are doing well and understand where is the gap.
b) Spend some time understanding industry best practices.
c) Study and Network with other HR professionals to understand what they are doing differently and why. There are multiple blog sites and research sites that have well explained articles on certain programs.
DEVELOP AN EYE FOR DETAIL
Eye for Detail does not only mean attention to detail while completing the tasks but also having the aptitude to notice everything that's going around you. Do you notice if there is an undercurrent stress in a specific team or dispute between employee and manager, do you notice if employee is happy some day / disturbed some days, do you notice if its the quarter end and your business leader is disturbed? , do you notice if you are sitting in a business meet and your business leader is stressed out, though he does not show it in his body language? Do you read enough about the changing trends in the industry? Do you know any thing about the environmental changes? Pandemic certainly changed way of working.
Point is, its important to notice all the small clues and prepare yourself to add value to business.
Remember - Small Things contribute to Major Outcomes.
One simple example from my early days, as soon as I arrive at office, I have a habit of keeping things on my desk and go and wish everyone irrespective of the level. It takes 10 mins but worth it. Months passed like this and it so happened that one of the days, I was having a busy morning and could not wish any one. That day employees came to my desk and started wishing, in-fact one of the employee even asked if everything was alright, I realised the impact a simple good morning has made. I immediately stopped what I was working on and went and wished every one.
I am not saying walk around to wish everyone, your style might vary but pay attention to all small and big things happening around you both Micro and Macro environmental and see if you as HR can add value.
The final point on my list is the ability to forecast trends. Understanding what is happening currently and catering to the solution is important but paradigm shift in HR demands HR to develop the capability to forecast the future and help adapt business and organisation accordingly. Some of the trends to constantly keep track of are demographic trends, economic trends, intra-environmental changes like work style trends, work space trends, etc..; legal trends, compliance trends, employment trends, technology trends, etc... Once you do trend forecasting, you are better prepared for future challenges or even better, you can be a trend setter.
Hope it helps. Feel free to add in comments if there are any additional ways that worked for you to be business oriented.