Non-HR Executives Are Starting to Take on HR Roles

Samantha LoCoco  |  December 2016  |  The human resources department is undergoing an extreme redesign, and career-long HR pros are no longer the only people overseeing the new and improved teams in the field. Many companies are now hiring non-HR executives, such as lawyers and accountants, to take on HR roles.

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, these new faces are indicative of a broader shift taking place in the department, which is being “built around highly empowered teams, driven by a new model of management, and led by a breed of younger, more globally diverse leaders.”

New Organizational Models Call for Reimagined HR Departments

As companies strive to become more agile and customer-focused, they are shifting their structures away from traditional, functional models in favor of interconnected, flexible teams. Deloitte’s report shows that 92 percent of the executives surveyed rate organizational design as a top priority, and nearly half (45 percent) report their companies are either in the middle of a restructuring (39 percent) or planning one (6 percent).

To overhaul the HR department and its responsibilities – which include recruiting, employee performance management, onboarding, and rewards systems – organizations must bring in leaders with expertise in people analytics, behavioral economics, and design thinking.

Beverly Morgan, managing director and senior vice president of talent acquisition firm WinterWyman, understands that seamless communication is one of the critical goals these company reorganizations are aiming to achieve.

“Both leaders and employees benefit from open forums [and] opportunities to engage in conversations casually,” Morgan says. “Inspired creative thinking is the platform. Employees are seeking this interaction, and leaders should be embracing it for a cohesive and consistent company culture.”

What Does the New HR Department Look Like?

The new organization of the HR department is built on several essential principles, according to Deloitte’s report:

  1. Move people into customer-, product-, or market- and mission-focused teams, led by team leaders who are experts in their domains (not “professional managers”).
  2. Teach and encourage people to work across teams, using techniques like “liaison officers,” open office spaces that promote collaboration, and job rotations to give teams a common understanding of each other.
  3. Enable people to move from team to team as needed – similar to the way experts come together in global consulting firms – and then ensure that people have a home to return to once a team-based project is done. This changes the concept of a “job description” to that of a “mission specialist” or “technical specialist.”
  4. Shift senior leaders into roles focused on planning, strategy, vision, culture, and cross-team communication.

Non-traditional HR executives can provide new viewpoints and analytical skills that are required for HR departments to lead change within organizations. Innovative HR leaders foster open forums and collaborative cultures that result in cross-functional insight from all levels of the organization.

While some may be resistant to the idea of hiring non-HR pros for HR roles, it’s important to remember that job titles are not destiny.

“We have a tendency to ‘label’ someone based on the function or discipline they come out of,” Morgan says. “It’s all about how they think, react, and embrace people, their work, and their value to the organization.”

In the world of HR, actions are often based on emotional intelligence (EQ) and not always on factual data that supports findings or solutions. While both EQ and data are critically important, striking the right balance between analysis and “gut feeling” is a critical skill that today’s successful HR leaders need, regardless of which function those leaders come from.

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