How Commercial Should A HR Team Be?

How Commercial Should A HR Team Be?

8 May 2017

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A HR function within a business can mean many different things to different people. Some people see HR as the ‘tea and sympathy’ department, other see them as a cost cutting machine. Sometimes employees may see HR purely as ‘blockers’ – telling them only what they can’t do rather than trying to find solutions to facilitate change.

It perhaps depends on where you have worked and the experience you have had with a HR department.

Although we have come a long way since the move away from the traditional ‘Personnel Management’ to ‘Human Resources’; within business, HR was historically viewed, and still can be seen, as an admin function – they deal with workplace disputes, file sickness leave and attend to general personnel issues.

This begs the question: How commercial does a HR function need to be in order to be considered successful? Being a commercial HR employee entails having a firm grasp of business strategy and a good head for figures, and understanding how your day to day HR interactions really can impact the business bottom line.

Modern HR candidates should be able to shout about their SAM (Saved, Achieved, Made) accomplishments on their CV with solid examples of the difference they have made to the respective organisations. They should understand the added value that they can bring to a business. HR professionals can have a massive contribution to the business bottom line and this ranges from saving time, effort and costs.

A solid HR candidate will analyse their proposed business solutions and think about how they help a business achieve what they need to. In order to work towards company objectives and business development plans, a HR employee should consider the following questions:

  • What outcome am I trying to achieve?
  • How can this approach improve the revenue/profit margin and reduce risk?
  • How will the impact of this approach be measured and what level of improvement will there be?
  • What other commercially valuable options are available?

These factors are all but essential with regards to the commercial value any decisions taken within the HR function can bring to a business.

A Good HR Manager / HR Business Partner should be able to demonstrate how they can drive a business forward and facilitate change. This can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, if a business objective is to sell more products, the HR team could devise and implement a training structure that would better equip the employees to do so. Or, if there was a problem with working hours lost through high rates of staff absences, HR could investigate what the root cause of the absences were and attempt to ameliorate the situation.

If a business needs to cut costs, one of the objectives of a HR department could be to organise a restructure. This, in turn, would require the team to deal with any potential redundancies in a respectful manner. In this sense, the HR team almost become like a PR function – they must report restructures in a sensitive manner internally, before it becomes a PR disaster externally (through disgruntled employees or attention from the press, for example).

On the flipside of this, if a business was looking to improve their employer brand and grow their team, the HR function could seek to recruit high quality candidates who reflect their business values and culture.

HR interventions and projects can prevent issues from growing and becoming untenable. They can also truly help a business achieve its goals and improve; from interpersonal communications to increased profitability.

If you are a committed and talented commercial HR candidate, I would love to hear from you. I can discuss any available and suitable roles I have with you confidentially. Click here to see my details and get in touch.





Written By Andy Brady


I do love a good Einstein quote! I think its definitely a re-education of to the 'powers that be' in business at large of what HR can do rather than a fighting against those that don't appreciate it. As HR we do manage the organisations biggest asset, its people, and definitely need to strive to get the best out of each individual that we can. As a profession we can offer so much more and I think it is just an exercise of re-scoping how HR is viewed - with some people this will be an uphill struggle; I think it is cutting the cloth accordingly and looking at the business objectives and working out how HR can help find a solution to an organisational problem.
Posted on Tuesday, May 09, 2017 14:25 by Andy Brady
I agree with what you say Andy; HR definitely needs to be in tune with the commercial needs of the business. After all, "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it", as the saying goes. But I also believe the thing that separates HR from being a subset of the Finance dept is the need to take a wider view. Our core subject matter is people and developing their ability to operate at their best, and that often means being able to look behind and beyond the numbers. I'm a great believer in Einstein's statement that "not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted necessarily counts."
Posted on Monday, May 08, 2017 21:10 by Allan Boyd

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