Celine Clark, recently appointed from Frazer Jones to a key role in BIE’s Executive HR practice, has noticed recent movements in the HR transformation market. The increased importance now being placed on the recruitment of high quality mid-level business partners is, she believes, the result of a shift in focus from strategy to culture. Here she gives her take on the rise of the HR transformation ‘back seat driver’.

There’s an old adage in the corporate world that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

Despite this, however, in the transformation space it feels like the wider strategic aims of the organisation have nearly always taken centre stage over the engagement of frontline staff on the ground.

That is, until the last few years. Since the post-recession economic surge began, there’s been a marked upturn in demand for mid-level HR and business partner expertise – the people chiefly responsible for delivering the cultural ‘sell’ behind organisational change.

It’s a shift borne out by the most recent international ‘human capital’ study by consultants Delloitte, which, for the first time ever, ranked culture and engagement above leadership as the number one people issue for global businesses.

We’re certainly seeing evidence of this on the ground, with our clients becoming increasingly active in the communications and engagement space.

It seems the penny has well and truly dropped to the fact that in our increasingly connected and competitive world, you just can’t afford to delay HR transformation until the latter stages of a change programme.

Clients increasingly want business partners who can embed their changes into the culture of their organisation in order to get buy-in at the start of a transformation and traction at the end.

They are looking for the mid-level specialists who can help them plan and execute strategies for internal & external communication, talent management, performance & reward, data & IT and learning and development. These are the disciplines that are increasingly seen as the foundation stones of successful transformation.

That’s not to say senior strategic roles aren’t still in demand. I joined BIE partly because of its strong and growing reputation in this vital area of transformation recruitment. Rather, it’s recognition that lasting transformation requires good foot soldiers to deliver effective backroom change machinery.

This applies to the kind of incremental change faced by all businesses – replacing talent, backfilling project roles etc – as well as to the major multi-million pound transformation programmes. It can also range from interim appointments, brought on board to put the building blocks in place, through to permanent appointments hired to ensure that transformed systems and processes bed in and deliver results.

For me, that’s the attraction of working in a truly end-to-end organisation like BIE Executive. I’m now part of a team that has the capability to help scope a transformation project through its advisory practice, put in place the high level expertise to lead it and also recruit the mid-level specialists responsible for engaging the workforce and maintaining momentum.

It’s an exciting time to be in the HR recruitment space. Demand for good quality, commercially aware business partners is beginning to outstrip supply, both in the interim and permanent market place.

The successful recruiters, I have no doubt, will be the ones with good contacts, strong networks, and end-to-end offer and – crucially – an understanding of the importance of the back seat driver in any organisational transformation.

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