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Let us be very clear, we believe that Human Resources can add significant business value. The HR Business Alignment (also known as the HR Business Partner) structure or organisation, when implemented well, is a systematic means of delivering business ‘value’. HR Partners (sometimes known as HR BPs) and their HR colleagues have a key role in creating a competitive advantage for their organisation.

If it is that simple and powerful, why do we get so criticised by line managers and why do we mock ourselves? Why do our national bodies put so much effort into ‘training’, especially skills and knowledge based training, yet continue to churn out professionals who clearly aren’t able to deliver ‘value’?

Why do some of the very best HR Partners that we’ve seen through our workshops and at our clients not come from a background in HR?

Because Business Partnership cannot be trained, it can only be nurtured.

Again, to be clear. HR professionals require knowledge which can be learnt in a formal setting. But to convert that knowledge into expert application requires a development cycle that starts with a professional entering at what we call the ‘discovering phase’ (unconscious incompetence – they don’t know what they don’t know); before moving onto the ‘understanding’ phase (conscious incompetence – they know it but can’t yet apply it); then ‘performing’ phase (conscious competence – they begin to apply the knowledge with mindful skill); to arrive at the ‘mastering’ phase (unconscious competence – they apply the knowledge without thought).

At each stage of the cycle different learning interventions are required. Critically, to go from understanding to applying knowledge requires a willingness to try and do things differently. We too often recognise that HR professionals know what they should do but are unwilling or unable to do so.

This is one of the reasons why our Online HR Competency Assessment Tool differentiates between understanding and application.

It doesn’t have to be like this. There are many ways of helping HR professionals to build confidence through practice, support, tools, techniques and creating the right environment. However, organisations have to recognise that as much energy needs to be focused on knowledge application as its acquisition.

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