Lack of skills hinders HR’s attempts at business partner status

HR professionals’ lack of strategic skills and competencies is preventing the function from becoming an effective business partner, pan-European research has found.

HR leaders surveyed estimated that just 15% of time was spent on ‘strategic partnering’ – the same figure as 2003, when the survey was last conducted.

The survey of 300 senior European HR executives by Mercer HR Consulting indicated that HR was strong in its traditional functional skills and related personal behaviours. However, there is now a growing set of skills required by HR that the function has yet to secure.

Some of these skills address the ability to improve customer service, manage projects and deploy technology. There are also skills in terms of business and financial understanding that are critical to HR’s capacity to partner with the business.

In short, HR is weak in a lot of the skills needed to be an effective business partner, said Philip Vernon, principal at Mercer. “Europe’s HR executives tend to agree that HR is exhibiting broader business and operational management skills, but there’s still a very strong emphasis on HR’s traditional expertise.

“A greater integration between those skills and a wider business and operational command is essential for HR’s strategic future.”

Line managers’ approach to people management was also flagged as a concern by respondents. HR still has a “significant challenge” in working with managers to ensure they execute the organisation’s policies effectively, the survey said.

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