Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Internal Human Resources Consulting: Why Doesn't Your Staff Get It?

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Internal Human Resources Consulting: Why Doesn't Your Staff Get It?

Article excerpt

For over a decade HR leaders have been striving to become business partners. They want to have a strategic impact on their organizations; however, many are struggling to make this transition. The primary reason for lack of progress in this endeavor is that HR analysts, the staff who carry out this mission, are still trained and reinforced in the traditional, transactional mindset. In order for the entire HR department to be considered strategic in nature, the HR analyst must learn critical consultative skills. These skills must be developed through a structured, deliberate approach. A methodical approach to developing HR staff for this role should include the following elements:

* Clearly defined jobs for internal HR consultants

* Strategic mission for the HR department that includes consultative approaches

* Formal training programs for internal HR consultant staff development

* Feedback on performance, including consultative skills

* Individual development planning based on feedback

* Coaching, mentoring, and continual feedback on consultative skills

* Job rotation

A consultative human resources professional is a business partner with the organization. Most human resource leaders have likely uttered one of these statements recently:

* "We're becoming more strategic."

* "Our HR department serves as a business partner with line departments."

* "I'm not an Analyst, I'm an Internal Consultant."

* "Our HR Department's goal is to add value to the organization."

* "HR has a seat at the table and has a voice for answers."

* "We are consulted before major decisions are made by our line departments."

Most human resource departments still focus on the transactional parts of their job-filling vacancies, maintaining employment records, and running open enrollments. HR professionals are not being insincere when they say that they want to become more strategic and more consultative; many organizations just need to define what it means to be "strategic" and "consultative." Even those organizations that have created strategic plans and defined missions have, in many cases, fallen short of fully implementing the new mission due to a lack of critical skills in the area of internal consulting.

The purpose of this article is to clearly define what is meant by, "internal HR consulting." The skills needed to transition from a "traditional" HR professional to a consultative practitioner will be explored. Finally, recommendations will be offered for organizations desiring to transform their organization and their staffs to a consultative approach.

The Cutting Edge

For the last decade, we have been asked to become strategic and consultative. Edward E. Lawler III, director of the Center for Effective Organizations at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California said, "HR people are more likely to have a seat at the table when strategy is set and decisions are made and when they translate those decisions into HR policies and practices." This puts the human resource professional in a new role. They are now expected to be problem-solvers, conflict resolvers, coaches, and liaisons with lots of organizational savvy. This expectation is a huge shift in what organizations have traditionally expected from HR.

Traditional HR professionals are those who focus on recruiting, training, pay, and industrial relations. These functions are transactional in nature and are typically measured in volume. Strategic, consultative HR professionals focus on the strategy and the culture of the organization, contributing in creative ways that impact the entire organization's productivity and effectiveness. Consider the following table as a way of comparing the transactional HR professional with the strategic HR professional.

HR Roles Compared: Transactional vs. … 
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