Feb 21, 2007

What exactly should a HR generalist do?

Neetu responded to my previous post with a timely comment which basically said "What does this jargon mean?"

So let me try to say what it means means and if you are a HR generalist maybe you can add to how you have made the transition.

1. Move from transactions to being strategic - To do this your firm should have invested in some form of HR management systems. If however, you as a HR generalist are responsible for churning out employee letters or keeping track of leaves accumulated, then there is very less chance that you will left with any time to move to the strategic end of the business.

HR being strategic also means understanding how people impact your business. And thinking about it in an analytical way. It could be in the form of analysing attrition data to discern trends (what are the reasons in my control for which my top employees leave? could be one), Who are the 20% employees who are my A players? Do I know whether each of them are happy? Do I spend enough time with them all?

2. Focus on building business credibility - Many HR folks crib that their business leaders do not spend much time with them. Of course, they won't. They won't unless you start speaking their language. Can you explain how the HR initiative you want to roll out will impact profitability? Can you explain the business logic of the mentoring framework you are so passionate about?

Mostly you don't get to step 1 without step 2. The language of business is money and profit. As a HR executive you have to explain yourself in that language. That is why business understands Recruitment and Compensation. The cost of not recruiting is glaringly obvious. The cost of having a sales incentive and the ROI is also pretty obvious. However for management development and leadership training as well as employee engagement initiatives that lie in the domain of the HR generalist, effort has to be put to explain the cost and expected ROI in "the language of the business" :-)

3. Building higher order skills like facilitation and change management skills - As a HR generalist grows to interfacing more and more with the leadership of a business the more important facilitation skills become. These are the skills that help a HR professional understand the "unsaid problems" of the leaders. The ability to understand the cues and bring forth the key issues of the business.

Change management skills as Prasad explains, has little to do with communication, and more to do with increasing people's capability to handle change.

Thanks for asking the question, Neetu.