business management
28 May 2019

Business Savvy HR – giving HR the edge

Business Savvy HR – giving HR the edge

Who knows your people the best? Who has worked with people and observed groups the most? Who should you turn to when dreams of transformation keep you up at night? You guessed it! HR professionals. They know people and they know how to change behaviour.


With that fact in hand, we have been pondering, why then is HR often involved too late in a transformation process, or not at all? We wanted to find out more about the practices and attitudes, so we surveyed CEOs and HR leaders in Finland over the spring.

The findings are both good and less good. But who doesn't love a challenge? Let's start with the good news. We found that people and talent development are recurring topics in management team meetings. In addition people are seen as the key to business success.

Where there is room for improvement is in the business savviness of HR and HR's ability to drive business results. When it comes to people related development initiatives, getting buy-in from stakeholders should also be improved. Furthermore, HR analytics could be utilised more extensively to improve business success.

As competition gets tougher and customer demands increase, companies can’t afford to not take the human aspect seriously. Transfomations may be driven by technological development and digitalisation but they are made successful by people. High tech requires high touch.

Fifteen of Finland’s top HR leaders rolled up their sleeves with us in May, to provoke new thinking and to figure out what the obstacles and solutions are for HR teams to become more business savvy. As in any good dialogue we had an open – and rather heated – discussion whether the topic itself in fact is relevant or not. The conclusion? Yes and no! As companies operate in different industries they find themselves in different maturity stages when it comes to the HR function. We also concluded that the answer might be different, if the business was asked.

The most intriguing obstacle that we discussed, was the fact that when most HR work is being digitalised the natural touch points with the business become fewer. This can lead to a growing distance between the two. Other hindering factors to HR becoming business savvy could be a narrow work experience, lack of job rotation and no common language with the business. A tendency to go after trends, instead of the actual needs of the business, does not help either.

To become more business savvy, HR ought to take a very proactive role in ensuring a steady dialogue with the business. Business, customer and industry knowledge, influencing skills, ability to ask the right questions and foresee consequences, building business cases and prioritising actions would be powerful tools in the quest of serving the company in an even better way.

In the smartest of companies, people savviness is seen as a real driver for success. But there are still cases where HR professionals must be brave enough to take a proactive stance and ensure their company’s success by becoming business savvy themselves.

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Hannamari Kuosa
Program Director, Business Coach
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