Skip to content

Capable, Credible and Courageous HR – the blueprint for success as a HR Professional

Predicting the future is an art not a science

Have you predicted yet who is going to win the football World-Cup and who is going to be in the ‘final 8’ to play the Quarter Finals? Predicting anything nowadays is becoming almost impossible and if you do get the winner right for the World Cup then it will be a combination of luck, judgement and guesswork with a splash of the ‘law of averages’. The same is true about trying to understand and make decisions about what is going to happen within the ‘world of work’ over the next 3 - 5 years and then trying to make sense of the implications for your organisation and its impact on the People Strategy.

So, why does HR still over rely on its HR Technical Expertise as a way of adding value to organisations when ‘value’ is constantly being re-defined, re-shaped and re-ordered? The best HR Functions now recognise that it is the quality of their People rather than the efficiencies of their HR Deliverables which will ensure their continued success, as it is people who adapt and evolve most successfully, not structures and processes. At CourageousHR we believe that the quality of HR Professionals is now being re-defined by how capable, credible and courageous they are with each other and with the business.

HR’s opportunity to create organisational value

Recent research from McKinsey’s into what the main drivers for globalisation are has highlighted that executives from around the world are not only expecting increased volatility in the marketplace but they recognise that it will become a permanent feature of the global economy. Therefore, if volatility is now the order of the day, HR has an opportunity to demonstrate it can deliver a unique contribution to organisational success through shifting its strategic focus away from efficiency savings (which is now part of the ‘day job’ in every function’s mandate) towards creating a work place culture which focuses on increasing employee engagement, productivity and innovation.

To achieve this shift in HR’s role within organisations from ‘tactical order taker’ to ‘strategic people facilitator’ means HR needs to redefine itself. HR needs to have the courage of its convictions to demonstrate to organisational leaders that working in partnership with HR will deliver sustained competitive advantage.

Capability, Credibility and Courage are now the core of HR’s transformation agenda.

  • HR Capabilities are concerned with developing a new series of competencies which will enable HR Professionals to successfully engage with the business, co-design a People Strategy and create a focused HR Strategy which can be effectively delivered in the workplace.
  • The degree of HR’s Credibility is shaped by its ability to influence organisational leaders to not only listen but work with HR to implement a People Strategy which will result in increasing employee engagement, productivity and innovation.
  • If HR wants a different future it has to create it. It has to believe and care deeply about what it is wishing for. Courage turns organisational rhetoric into action. It turns strategy into performance; turns values written on paper into a living culture; turns human ‘capital’ into people; encourages employees to be engaged; changes hierarchical and rule led groups into self-managing teams. In essence, courage transforms organisations. HR needs to role model Courage if the organisation is to follow.

Capable and competent is just the beginning

HR Roles which focus on the ‘business value adding’ competencies rather than the broader and all encompassing HR competency dictionary will be more successful in delivering real value to the business.

At CourageousHR we have reviewed all the key research on HR competencies and combined it with our own practioner experience and that of our clients’ to design a compact tailor made HR Competency Framework.

  • Courageous Leadership – able to articulate their personal and enduring vision and values and taking personal responsibility for managing their own and others performance
  • Building Relationships – success through alliances
  • Business Acumen – spotting organisational opportunities / threats and balancing them against the impact on people
  • Customer Focus – balancing ‘delighting your customers’ with being an employee advocate
  • HR Professionalism – staying ahead of the game
  • Innovator – not standing still
  • Results Driven – enhancing organisational performance through people

What we have discovered is that only one of these seven core competencies is specific to HR – ‘HR Professionalism’ – whilst the remaining six competencies are equally relevant to any other Service Function (e.g. IT, Finance). This insight means that HR has an opportunity to work across an Organisation, with other Service Functions, to create a consistent approach to developing a partnership culture. The implications for organisations are potentially profound as HR will not only be ‘leading from the front’ but it will also be demonstrating how organisations can evolve in a volatile marketplace without the need for constant, costly and confusing re-structures.

Whilst all seven HR competencies are important it appears that the most challenging competencies for HR Professionals are ‘Courageous Leadership’ and ‘Business Acumen’. This seems to highlight one of the key challenges facing HR – uncertainty about its legitimate role within an organisation, a lack of self-belief and inadequate understanding of the business and its implications on people. Therefore, HR Leaders needs to start investing in developing the capability of its entire HR Function rather than relying on HR Professionals muddling through and ‘getting by’. The role of HR has changed dramatically over the last five years and relying on legacy skill sets will only hasten the marginalisation of HR by organisational leaders.

Credibility is all about being believable and trustworthy

It appears that Politicians and Journalists are two of the least trusted professions anywhere in the world. If there was a ‘trust league of professions’ it would be interesting to know where HR would appear on it!

Research suggests that HR is not perceived very highly by organisational leaders and in part this is down to HR’s misconceived view of its own importance and value. If HR is to influence the People Change Agenda in order to help their organisations cope with the volatility of the marketplace, then HR needs to be a trusted adviser and partner to leaders. In other words, HR needs to be credible in the eyes of these leaders.

Credibility is the quality of being believable and trustworthy. It is the foundation of an HR’s professional relationship with an organisation and yet is hard to win and easy to lose. Critically, because it is based on the perception of the recipient (e.g. organisational leaders) HR needs to consciously explore how it can ‘bridge their credibility gap’.

What is apparent is that credible HR Professionals and credible HR Functions are not one and the same thing. HR’s credibility is only as strong as its least credible link so HR Leaders who rely on a few ‘HR Stars’ to develop strong and high-profile business relationships come unstuck when what is promised is either not delivered or is of poor quality.

Credibility can be built and there are number of tactics that individuals and the HR Function as a whole can adopt. Based on our experience at CourageousHR we suggest small, achievable steps and easy wins start to build your ‘credibility bank’; learning and using the language of the business; knowing what you stand for and knowing what you will not do; publicising your relevant successes and achievements to inspire confidence; obtaining visible senior management support to key projects, initiatives and actions; being truthful wherever possible.

For HR to become true partners to the business there needs to be mutual trust – without this core ingredient no amount of activity and posturing will disguise the fact that HR is not trusted to deliver. Our advice is always ‘under promise and over deliver’.

Courage can be learnt but is not for the fainthearted

Courage as a concept is misunderstood and poorly defined. Too often people associate courage with visible acts of public bravery rather than skills that can be developed.

However, the latest research shows that courage is a competency which can be learnt and developed. Courage comes in all shapes and sizes but ultimately courage is something personal.

The importance of courage for HR is that increasingly the people it serves in organisations are themselves needing to become courageous to deal with the turbulence of the marketplace - predictability is history.

Increasingly, those organisations which are able to tap into their talent pool and engage most effectively with their employees will be those which are best prepared to prosper. However, the extent to which employees are prepared to ‘give of themselves’ for their organisations will be determined by their level of commitment and engagement which is driven by the level of trust and the absence of fear.

To become courageous is no overnight sensation and you will only know how courageous you are when you are tested at a ‘courage crossroads’. However, the core to courageous leadership revolves around the ‘Seven Faces of Courage’ - Honesty, Drive, Zeal, Structure, Empowerment, Partnership and Judgement.

It is only by individuals choosing to develop each of these faces of courage and seeking ways to put them into practice that organisational cultures will start to transform. It is the role of the (HR) Leader which is the critical in creating an environment where being courageous is not only acceptable but encouraged. To achieve this, (HR) Leaders need to be courageous with themselves and with others – courage needs to be nurtured and protected.

HR’s success is down to the quality of its people

HR needs to develop a profile and reputation which ensures its voice is heard and its advice sought in shaping the strategic direction and sustainable future of organisations. To achieve this much sought – but rarely achieved – position requires HR to radically review and overhaul its organisational purpose and value.

By investing in the development of its entire team, HR it is giving itself the greatest opportunity for it to be courageous enough to speak out and credible enough to be listened to. HR can control its future if it chooses to lead from the front.