How Should HR Gain Business Acumen

Raju Mandhyan

I would like to hit the ground running with this piece. I can do that as a former, hardcore businessperson who has moved into the field of people development.

This topic first, in my memory, came up with Professor Zayda Marquez at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. The question was why should human resource personnel have business acumen? Twenty years later, the same question is still being raised. I am thinking to myself because the easiest and the most prudent measure of success in any endeavor, any enterprise or any social responsibility organization is money. I am not saying it is the only measure, but it is the prime and the most prudent measure.

Let’s get on with this and accept it as fact, as the stark reality that does not need any more sugar coating. I understand and deeply respect the principles of people, planet and profits but recognize that these are deeply intertwined and almost inseparable.

I have heard President Gerry Plana bring up the need to build business acumen competencies among HR personnel many times and it awes me to realize that twenty years have passed since I first heard it heard it from Professor Zayda Marquez.

The idea that is brewing in my mind is that we can take a hundred percent of our advocacies and turn them into a hundred percent of action! Just that, one hundred percent action!

Out there in the world, institutions like SHRM, AHRM and ATD have been voicing out similar opinions for decades. Of the hundreds of suggestions put out by them and the rest of the world, here are three quick ones of my choosing:

· Move sales and marketing champions into the HR Function: Throw those that claim that they can sell ice to Eskimos into the pit where they have to sell people development ideas to the C-suite. We know HR people care now let us see them pitch the idea of human care.

· Move the numbers-obsessed financial wizards into the HR Function: Along the continuum of tasks against relationships and care, the numbers’ people are on one extreme while peoples’ people are on the opposite end. Let the twain meet and let the sparks fly. Where there will be fire, the businesses can cook a pot of progress and profits.

· Finally, let people from HR spend time at the customer and client interface fronts. Let them get a taste of what it is to be constantly thinking in numbers, in commitments and being accountable to people other than those that surround and support you. Let them try sell ice to Eskimos.

Surely the trends that take form in industry begin to trickle down into the academe. At a recent People Management Association of the Philippines General Membership Meeting, there was talk about how the numbers of student enrollees have dropped in the people management courses. Getting people development people into the forefront of all businesses will add energy not just to the function but also to the future of all human progress.

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