How Outsourcing is Turning HR Into a More Strategic Partner

October 17, 2016 Zuman

Perhaps now more than ever, executives and other leaders are expecting more from HR heads. Namely, a more conscious effort to contribute to the sustained growth of the company as a whole. More and more, HR departments can step up, thanks to effective use of outsourcing. In fact, as the Society for Human Resource Management explained, the HR outsourcing industry is expected to grow from $42.6 billion in 2015 to $53.9 billion by 2020.

It's not that outsourcing is simply freeing up more time for HR departments to focus on growth-centric goals. Rather, much of the outsourcing is geared toward changing perspectives and helping HR to operate with continued growth as a primary goal.

1. Further Develop Accountability
John Sanders is a long-time consultant for Hewitt consulting. Speaking with LinkedIn, he said one of the main challenges with HR departments is a distinct lack of accountability. Because of that, it's hard for these departments to maintain a cohesive sense of identity, which is key to aligning them with the company's larger goals. Sanders said there are several ways that companies can better develop this sense of accountability.

For one, HR needs to have a say in designing the tools other workers use to do their jobs. That way, the HR leaders can gear these toward employees' specific needs.

HR must also have a say in maintaining strategies and how they are implemented; again, this is a way to ensure the human element remains vital to all tasks. Finally, HR should be involved in every stop of the standard work flow. Having this level of influence can ensure employees are cognizant of their individual roles and better discuss opportunities for growth and personal challenge. Outsourcing allows HR departments to understand their various responsibilities and then find ways to plug in to become more accountable to the entire company.

2. Learn More About Business Practices
To really be an effective partner to other departments, HR must understand the business as a whole. It's this knowledge that will then help HR leaders make more meaningful strategic contributions. While outsourcing the work means fewer HR-specific tasks, department heads then need to fill their calendars with other, equally essential responsibilities. One of the most important is to find a mentor, someone else in the company who can help guide HR personnel into the inner workings of other departments and explain how to contribute to goals using their inherent skills.

As an extension of that, it's important to attend regular staff meetings, or hold events with other departments. These gatherings are important for more than learning more intimate details about the company and its many ongoing projects. HR leaders also need to work on their own, collecting vital research by reading business publications and attending conferences. In a way, outsourcing is a great way to practice many of these skills. By working with partners and vendors, HR teams can learn the importance of collaboration and how to think about business in terms of the bigger picture.

3. Rethink Your Perspectives
In July 2012, HR expert J. Craig Mundy wrote an essay for the Harvard Business Review pondering why HR departments aren't always so strategically minded. While some of what Mundy wrote about in the years since has changed, one thing remains fundamental to HR departments nationwide. 

"Why is it so difficult to inject that business perspective? Because as HR leaders we feel ourselves to be near the pinnacle of the organization," he wrote. "The organization reports to us. It must meet our demands for information, documents, numbers."

As Mundy has come to learn that's not the case at all. If anything, the very opposite of that is true, and HR needs to work to help people do their jobs quickly and efficiently. In some way, outsourcing is a way to see how that dynamic plays out, to work alongside individuals and partners and give them the support needed to excel. This can then be applied to interacting with the company's internal structure.

Mundy added that this change in perspective should be reflected in everything HR handles. Talent strategy, for instance, shouldn't just be about managing these workers, but giving them the skills to handle challenges and focus on growth-related goals in their own day-to-day roles. It's about facilitating this sense of expansion in every worker and strategy in the company.


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