14th November 2019

There are two Types of HR Leader. Which one are you?

Dave Ulrich puts it simply, “HR is not about HR, it’s about the business”. Succinct and powerful, this phrase has cut-through. Most of the HR leaders we interact with recognise it and believe it.

The problem is a great many HR leaders don’t practice it. Hence our call out on there being Two Types of HR Leaders.

What we see is that both HR Leader Types have a positive intent for the organisation and their function, both types know the function well, have formal qualifications in the area and both types get things done.

So, here’s the distinction.

The Type 1 HR Leader

They base their strategy and their workload on doing great HR stuff, they focus on getting “the enablers” right. By enablers we mean things like (and in no particular order):

  • Performance Management
  • Talent Planning & Succession
  • Talent Acquisition
  • On-Boarding
  • People Administration
  • Remuneration & Reward
  • Development
  • Training
  • Engagement
  • Culture
  • Diversity
  • Safety & Wellness
  • Communication
  • HR Systems, Reporting, Metrics, Analysis & Insights

Every one of these enabling activities are important and the HR Strategy of the Type 1 HR Leader will cover most, if not all, of these important areas. But, here’s the thing, many of these enablers are included in the HR Strategy, whether or not the enablers are a priority for the business.

That’s the differentiation of the Type 2 HR Leader.

The Type 2 HR Leader

They engage with business issues first. Leveraging their experience and business acumen they recognise opportunities and issues stemming from organisational performance indicators like cash flow, gross margin, net profit, or working capital. They validate the link to the organisational capabilities that drive revenue, identify new products, services, markets, increase process efficiency, find new customers and keep existing customers engaged.

The strategic focus of the Type 2 HR Leader is therefore more likely to be on activities like:

  • Deep inquiry into the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses in key areas of value creation such as product offering, customer engagement, and operating efficiency.
  • Knowing the external market and the capabilities required to compete in the future.
  • Building high performing individuals and teams in a planned and systematic way.
  • Undertaking continual assessments of their talent to ensure their best performers stack up against the best in the market.
  • Ensuring the organisation is attractive to the best external talent in the market.

Yes, the HR enablers are important, but only when they are in the context of serving key business needs and outcomes.

What does your HR Strategy look like? Was it written following a deep understanding of the organisation’s performance via a look into the market and your competition? Or is it based on building an effective HR function with all the bells and whistles of other HR functions?

If you’d like to undertake a desktop review of your current strategy or simply use a whiteboard to bounce ideas around, get in touch. We’re always happy to help our clients and potential clients think through options and opportunities. We’re not lawyers, so we never charge for brainstorming.

Our intent is to help the HR function grow and develop more Type 2 HR Leaders. Through a brainstorming process with us, we’ll find out whether or not there is a good fit between what you need and value and what we do well. If there is, we can keep talking. If not, we’ll be the first to say so.

Justin Miles

Justin Miles

Manager Partner, Melbourne at Generator Talent
Justin is the Managing Partner of our Melbourne office, an outcome focused leader with a track record of driving business performance through proven talent and organisation development practices. Justin’s methods and skills have been shaped by working with performance oriented leaders in great companies including PepsiCo, The Campbell Soup Company, Diageo, Rip Curl, Fonterra and Wesfarmers, in Australia, the USA and Latin America.
Justin Miles

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