The 3 New Roles of the Human Resources Professional

Traditional HR is transforming and adding new critical roles

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Some industry commentators call the function of Human Resources the last bastion of bureaucracy. Traditionally, the role of the professional in many organizations has been to serve as the systematizing, policing arm of executive management.

Their role was more closely aligned with personnel and administration functions that were viewed by the organization as paperwork. This is because the initial HR functions needed, in many companies, came out of the administration or finance department areas.

Because hiring employees, paying employees, and dealing with benefits were the organization's first HR needs, bringing in finance or administration staff as HR staff is not surprising.

Administrative Functions and Executive Agendas

In this role, the HR professional served executive agendas well but was frequently viewed as a roadblock by much of the rest of the organization. Some need for this role remains—you wouldn’t want every manager putting his own spin on a policy, for example.

Nor can every manager interpret and implement the as she chooses. Payroll and benefits need administration, even if they are now electronically handled. The administrative functions of the HR department continue to need management and implementation. These tasks are not going away anytime soon.

In this role, employees regarded and going to HR was the kiss of death for your ongoing relationship with your own manager. Employees believed and were often correct, that the HR function was in place solely to serve the needs of management. Thus, employee complaints often fell on deaf ears in an HR department that existed to serve managers' needs.

They criticize everything from their education to their professionalism to their support for employees. More importantly, they accuse HR professionals of misleading employees, failing to keep confidential, and exhibiting poor practices in areas such as investigations, benefits options, and . 

In some cases, HR is held in such disrespect that you may want to understand why your employees hate HR. Part of it is, of course, that employees don't always understand what the .


If the HR function in your organization is not transforming itself to align with forward-thinking practices, executive leadership must ask HR leaders some tough questions. Today’s organizations cannot afford to have an that fails to contribute to lead modern thinking and contribute to .

In this environment, much of the HR role is transforming. The , director, or executive must parallel the needs of his or her . Successful organizations are becoming more , resilient, quick to change direction and customer-centered.

Three New Roles

Within this environment, the HR professional, who is considered necessary by managers and executives, is a strategic partner, an employee sponsor or advocate and a change mentor.

These roles were recommended and discussed in Human Resource Champions, by , one of the best thinkers and writers in the HR field today, and a professor at the University of Michigan.

The HR professionals who understand these roles are leading their organizations in areas such as organization development, strategic utilization of employees to serve , and and development.

Let’s take a look at each of these roles and their impact on HR functions and practices.

Strategic Partner

In today’s organizations, to guarantee their viability and ability to contribute, HR managers need to think of themselves as strategic partners. In this role, the HR person contributes to the development of and the accomplishment of the organization-wide business plan and objectives.

The HR business objectives are established to support the attainment of the overall strategic business plan and objectives. The tactical HR representative is deeply knowledgeable about the design of work systems in which people succeed and contribute.

This strategic partnership impacts HR services such as the design of work positions; hiring; reward, recognition and strategic pay; ; career and ; and . When HR professionals are aligned with the business, the of the organization is thought about as a strategic contributor to business success.

To become successful business partners, the HR staff members have to think like business people, know finance and accounting and be accountable and responsible for cost reductions and the measurement of all HR programs and processes.

It's not enough to ask for a seat at the ; HR people will have to prove that they have the business savvy necessary to sit there.

Employee Advocate

As an employee sponsor or advocate, the HR manager plays an integral role in organizational success via his knowledge about and advocacy of people. This advocacy includes expertise in how to create a in which people will , contributing, and happy.

Fostering effective methods of goal setting, communication and builds employee ownership of the organization. The HR professional helps establish the organizational in which people have the competency, concern, and commitment to serve customers well.

In this role, the HR manager provides overall strategies, opportunities, , gain sharing and strategies, organization development interventions, due process approaches employee complaints and problem-solving, and regularly scheduled communication opportunities.

Change Champion

The constant evaluation of the effectiveness of the organization results in the need for the HR professional to frequently champion change. Both knowledge about and the ability to execute successful change strategies make the HR professional exceptionally valued. Knowing how to link change to the strategic needs of the organization will minimize employee dissatisfaction and resistance to change.

Organization development, the overarching discipline for strategies, gives the HR professional additional challenges. Consciously helping to create the right , monitoring , and measuring the results of organization initiatives fall here as well as in the role of employee advocacy.

The HR professional contributes to the organization by constantly assessing the effectiveness of the HR function. She also sponsors change in other departments and in work practices.

To promote the overall success of her organization, she champions the identification of the organizational , , values, goals and action plans. Finally, she helps determine the measures that will tell her organization how well it is succeeding in all of this.