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The changing role of HR as a business partner

On the HR Director Magazine and HRM Online Round Table:
Laura Croucher
Partner and National Leader of People and Change Solutions, KPMG

Helena Gottschling
SVP Leadership & Organizational Development, RBC

David Heather
VP of Human Resources, Cisco Canada

Katrina Stevens
National Director of Human Resources, Miller Thomson LLP

For more from the HR executives see the HRD 2.1.

Video transcript below:

Laura Croucher, Partner and National Leader of People and Change Solutions, KPMG
Laura Croucher:
 My name is Laura Croucher, I am a Partner at KPMG and a National Leader of our People and Change Solutions practice and we are with HR Director Magazine today to have a round table about HR trends that are impacting our businesses right now.  

To my right I have David Heather, who is the VP of HR at Cisco, Canada.  Beside David I have Katrina Stevens, National Director of HR at Miller Thomson and to my left I have Helena Gottschling, the SVP of Leadership & Organisational Development at RBC.  And let’s talk about the relationship between HR and the finance function.  So history has them as being two very separate functions.  But I think that the relationship between those two areas has been shifting over last little while and just would be interested in your advice in terms of what’s that done to HR, how has it changed HR and how is it upping your game?

Katrina Stevens, National Director of Human Resources, Miller Thomson LLP
Katrina Stevens:
 We really enjoy a good partnership and find ways to actually bring up their game and ours. Initially we had a great example on that, we did a complete overhaul of our measurement of human capital and so that could not have been done without the support of the CFO himself as with many others in the accounting department.  And so it’s helped us bring new measures to the forefront and sharpen our decision making.

David Heather, VP of Human Resources, Cisco Canada
David Heather:  
I think you’ve got a very business sense relationship with the CFO and obviously the business leaders.  You can actually [put a lens] on the things we actually work on from a HR perspective, where we see value and it should actually be in [lock step] with the business strategy.  So I encourage all of my team to make sure that they can fully understand the balance sheet, understand profit and loss, understand the key drivers that the business are facing and they can actually then starting talking us on the levels that they can use to make sure that our business is even more successful than it currently is.  I think if you haven’t got that in HR you don’t have the credibility, you are not authentic, you are not going to get a seat at the table.

Laura Croucher:  So as a leader you know a leader, a consulting practice that works with executives in both finance function and the HR function and both functions across Canada continue to want to elevate the role of the business partner.  So they are having the same struggles in terms what do we need to do and I think the opportunity is to come together around what are those a) soft skills that you need to have to be the partner and then b) what is it that understanding of the business to be that good partner.  So it’s just, it’s interesting to me, we look at this coming together but are parts of the organisations, it was recent that what I am seeing in the marketplace are struggling with the same issue.

Helena Gottschling, SVP Leadership & Organizational Development, RBC
Helena Gottschling:
 I don’t know if I would say we are struggling with it.  I think there is a strong acknowledgement across particularly our HR business partner population about the importance of really understanding the business that they support and you know one way that, one tangible way that we’ve kind of addressed this is we don’t staff all of our HR business partner roles with purely HR professionals, we do have people working in HR who have worked in the business and then have come into HR and gone back into business and come back into HR.  So it’s also about holding our HR people accountable for building that knowledge, it’s not alll us doing it for them, I mean they have to have an interest.  Well that’s what I’ve learned over the years.  If they don’t have an interest you know you can send them on a course, you can give them things to read, but at the end of the day, you know they have to believe that will make them more effective as a HR professional and they have to have an interest.