HR needs to cast off the shackles of its traditional role as an administrative function and embrace its new role as a strategic partner, says Unisys HR leader.
The role of HR in talent acquisition is of pivotal importance to an organisation’s growth strategy, says Unisys Senior Human Resources Director, Tony Lehner.
“In many cases, members of the HR team are the face of the organisation when we are attracting new talent,” Lehner told HC Online. “HR cannot be invisible,” he says.
However, while Lehner says HR should play a visible role within a company, he highlights the need for a paradigm shift from HR as an administrative function to HR as a strategic partner.
“HR should be seen – but we need to be seen doing the right things,” Lehner says.
“Businesses can’t afford to have a Human Resources team that doesn’t add real value to the business.”
His Unisys Asia Pacific HR team consists of 28 HR professionals covering 9 Countries and 2400 employees. These include 15 people focused on Talent Acquisition & Resource Management, 8 in Strategic HR (HR Business Partners), 3 focused on Employee Relations – 3 (ASK HR / grievance management) and two dedicated to HR Operations.
“With over 50 per cent of my team involved in Resource Management / Talent acquisition you can see that sourcing and attracting the right skilled talent to Unisys is a priority,” Lehner told HC Online.
The global information technology company has more than 20,000 employees around the world, with more than 900 of these based in Australia.
He says a key priority for the Unisys Talent Acquisition, Resource Management and HR Partners is working on sourcing strategies to attract talents with rare, high demand skills.
“In most cases, members of the HR team are the face of Unisys when we are attracting new talent,” Lehner says.
“Recently we hired a new leader for our Asia Pacific business and my team and I were the only point of contact before we achieved a very short list for interview by members of the Global Senior Leadership team.
Our role was to attract the right talent to continue the growth of our business in Asia Pacific and to keep them engaged in the process.”
The Unisys HR team has been pivotal to the company’s growth throughout the Asia Pacific region, Lehner says.
“For example, in February 2015 we needed to hire 50 service centre staff in the Philippines to support new business. We had 2 weeks’ notice to make and have offers accepted. We had minimal infrastructure and no office,” he says.
To ensure Unisys met the business demand, three of the Sydney-based HR Partners and two of the Malaysia-based Talent Acquisition team travelled to Manila.
“We met the target which ultimately led to a delighted client,” Lehner says.
“To me this was HR working on a real business priority. It meant understanding the market, understand how do we attract talent, what is the right level of compensation and how do we retain key talent,” he says.
He says it can be all too easy for HR professionals to fall into the trap of becoming HR administrators.
“HR is a support function but we need to provide this support where there is a real business priority. In my experience, I have often seen HR Partners become fancy HR Administrators,” Lehner says.
“I know I did this early in my career. It is an easy trap to fall into – typically the HR Partner receives great feedback from the business leaders – often in the form of awards,”
“But realistically they are doing low-value work that the line management are too lazy (or scared) to do themselves.”
He says HR has evolved from an administrative function to being essential to successful strategic planning and implementation and will continue to trend in this way.
“No doubt HR has changed dramatically to be more strategic and less focus on low value work,” Lehner says.
“I think there will always be complex matters that need HR expertise but as line managers grow in capability and better tools are provided, the mix of HR activities will skew to higher-level value add.”
Lehner says HR should be visible:
1. An active and strategic participant in the executive leadership team (people are a valued asset of the business)
2. Leading talent acquisition – usually HR are the first contact with new talent
3. Partnering with the business to develop programs to delight customers
HR should be invisible:
1. HR is not an administration function
2. HR should not be seen as a “policing function” (capable managers don’t need to hide behind HR)
3. People strategies (including employee development / retention) need to be owned by the business. HR can advise and build programs but they are priorities for the business.
4. There is a role in advising/supporting to resolve people issues – but line managers need to be seen to own the employee / employer relationship
Tony Lehner is a guest speaker at the upcoming 2016 National HR Summit