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All too often HR is seen as a barrier to commercial success, so it’s time to widen our concept of self-development, writes Penny Whitelock

I work across many sectors, and it is quite common that when candidates respond to questions about HR, the answer is often accompanied by a rolling of the eyes and ‘that look’.

‘That look’ is not a flattering one, I might add. Many HR departments have developed a place for themselves where they rule the roost. Add to this the increasing number of managers who abdicate responsibility to HR, and the result is HR earning a reputation for restricting commercial agility rather than supporting it.

But how can the traditional HRD become more commercial? The challenge here is, who manages HR professionals’ development, other than themselves? If left to their own devices, the result can be the pursuit of a fairly narrow field of development. Meanwhile, we in HR are supporting the more broad development of employees in other parts of the organisation to meet the needs of the changing commercial landscape in which we find ourselves: one where digital disruption is strewn in our path; where laid-back millennials lurk; and where Brexit hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles, threatening doom and gloom or feast and favour.

The lack of HRDs’ commercial knowledge isn’t going unnoticed. In July 2016, research from Korn Ferry Hay Group* revealed that while 81 per cent of CEOs see HR as playing a critical role in developing business strategy, only 32 per cent intended to recruit their next HRD internally. A further 58 per cent wanted HR to act more as a strategic partner, with nearly half of respondents also wanting to see an increase in alignment between people and business issues.

Data is one area where an HRD can inform the organisation, by using people data to identify future trends and risks that the business is facing, and devise tactical plans to avoid them, while securing from the board the resources needed to carry out these plans.

Read More: Opinion: HR needs to broaden its own mind and become more commercial – People Management Magazine Online