Sink or swim in the talent pool

The identification, retention and development of talent is a priority likely to feature on the plans of most HR functions. Yet when we come to review these talent pools, how many people will come from HR? There is a feeling that there will be too few. This situation needs to change.

As HR and people development professionals seek to transform – deploying e-hr, implementing shared service centres to deliver transactional and advisory HR activities, outsourcing and establishing a new business partnership with line managers – we see a significant opportunity for HR professionals to get themselves noticed by their business colleagues.

Many critical business issues involve significant people and organisational challenges. To tackle these issues, managers need a strong contribution from HR, and that contribution must be broader than the ‘traditional’ HR areas. For HR professionals, our challenge is to develop and deploy new capabilities.

New HR capabilities

In researching our new book, Transforming HR: Delivering value through people, we identified three critical capability areas that HR professionals need to develop to enhance their core HR skills:

– Client relationship management

– Strategy and change management

– Project management.

Client relationship management should underpin everything that we do. We will be effective when we build and develop strong relationships. If we are trusted and respected, we will be heard, and will then be in a position to influence.

We also need to develop our process consultation skills, so that we can take clients step by step from the problem diagnosis through to the solutions.

Strategy and change management is about developing and deploying the tools and techniques that work with our clients to help shape strategy and manage change more effectively. This means getting to grips with material around organisational development and knowing how to apply it in ways that will help our organisations.

Project management is about how we organise our work to demonstrate value. The world of consultancy has much to offer by way of example.
Let us pose a question: how would you feel if a consultant made a proposition for work without terms of reference, clear scope and deliverables, a project plan, and time and cost estimates? They probably wouldn’t get your attention.

The same applies to HR professionals. Project management is not about being proficient in using MSProject or PRINCE2, but about developing a project mindset so we can show the value of our work.

Line capabilities

The challenge for our colleagues in the line is that the new HR delivery model offers few excuses for them to avoid their people management responsibilities. The role of HR is to create an architecture within which managers manage people. In general, line managers are better than they were 20 years ago – they are better educated and acquire greater responsibility earlier on.

Technology can put much information in to the hands of managers who need to make decisions. HR has two roles: to demystify HR, and to build line manager confidence through coaching, training and clearer policy advice.


It is no good just saying to HR professionals, ‘go forth: contribute strategically and add value’. Part of the implementation must include clarifying the performance expectations around the new professional HR roles, and being prepared to invest in the development of HR professionals and managers.


The real value of HR transformation occurs when HR professionals work in partnership with the business. Implementation of the HR value model does not just happen. It requires, at its heart, the development of HR capability, both within the HR and line management communities.

For HR professionals, this means developing capabilities that will put them at the heart of the business and on the radar screen as future business leaders.

This article is based on a new book, Transforming HR: creating value through people, by Martin Reddington, Mark Williamson and Mark Withers. It is published by Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier this month. Readers of Training Magazine will get a discount of 10 per cent off the cover price of 24.99 by phoning 01865 474 010 by 28 February

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