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How Can HR Move from Transactional to Transformational?

The following post is courtesy of board member Neil Reichenberg. Neil is the Executive Director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR).  IPMA-HR is a nonprofit membership organization representing public sector human resource managers and professionals, undertaking research on human resource issues, as well as providing professional development, education, and information on pending legislation and regulations affecting HR issues.

“How can we make HR less transactional and more transformational?” This question has been asked in a variety of different ways throughout the close to four decades that I have worked for the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR). While the members of IPMA-HR work in the public sector, the desire to shift HR to become a strategic partner that helps to improve organizational performance transcends all sectors. Despite most organizations recognizing that employees are their most valuable asset, and HR being the only part of the organization with people as its primary mission, criticism of the HR function continues. For example, the July/August 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review has a picture of a bomb with the headline, “It’s Time to Blow up HR and Build Something New”.

In September 2016, IPMA-HR issued a report titled “HR 2020 Shifting Perspectives: A Vision for Public Sector HR” that attempts to create a transformative roadmap for HR professionals. The framework starts with three critical lenses consisting of business acumen, innovation, and strategic orientation. IPMA-HR believes that viewing issues through these lenses will assist HR to be viewed as an influencer and strategic partner rather than a transactional, supporting player. The report also identifies five focus areas: leadership, culture, talent, technology, and communications. The report urges HR professionals to put the best possible programs and services in place in these five key areas. Taken together, the three lenses and five focus areas create a holistic framework for planning, communicating and implementing HR services that will meet the strategic and tactical needs of organizations.

You can access the full report here: www.ipma-hr.org/hr2020, where you will also find practical information, tools and resources for each of the focus areas. IPMA-HR is also finalizing online assessments for both HR professionals and HR departments that are designed to help them take a critical look at their service delivery orientation and options in order to determine program strengths and weaknesses. Scores can be tallied to determine strengths and development needs by focus area that will allow individuals and HR departments to tailor a development action plan. A third assessment is designed for HR departments to share with their business partners to obtain feedback on the key focus areas.

We hope this report and related tools and resources will help people and organizations take their HR to the next level, leaving the transactional in the rearview mirror and moving forward towards transformation.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hello Neil! Great article…and if the call to action occurs by HR leadership, the content of the presentation provides for a straight-forward pragmatic approach allowing measurable progress toward such a transformation.

    March 23, 2017
  2. Neil, I know that transforming HR in the public sector is a special challenge, but I hope some people will take the IMPA-HR study to heart. My one piece of advice for HR folks who want to transform the function is: don’t try to do this just from within HR. You really want the top level management to buy in to a transformation (or at least rapid evolution) of the whole organization and recognize that transformed HR is utterly central to that change.

    So the goal shouldn’t be to make HR a little better; it should be to make the organization much better; and there is no path to better organizational performance that does not run straight through HR.

    March 24, 2017
  3. Laura Kushner #

    Great job! I’m super-excited about the online assessment tools for HR professionals — can’t wait to see and experience these!

    April 6, 2017

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