Why Consumer-Facing Businesses Need HR as a Strategic Partner

Forward-thinking consumer companies are leveraging human resources as a strategic partner to support organizational development and overall growth, says Caitlin Kenefick, of Herbert Mines Associates, in a new report. Let’s go inside the latest findings.

December 16, 2019 – The consumer-industry is facing dramatic disruption which has caused a ripple effect across business models, channels of distribution and product categories – no part of an organization is left unaffected by the macro changes within the industry.

“As we continue to monitor trends, we have seen an evolution of the human resources function in response to radical business transformation,” said Caitlin Kenefick, vice president at Herbert Mines Associates, in a new report. “At Herbert Mines, we partner with our clients across consumer-facing industries to help them navigate changes with executive leadership and human capital trends.”

“Within our firm, we have seen an increase in human resources-related search work, and, regardless of scale, sector or ownership structure, forward-thinking consumer organizations are now leveraging HR as a strategic partner to support organizational development and overall growth,” she said.

New Focus on People, Culture & Engagement

Gone are the days where human resources was a back-office personnel function. “We have seen the evolution from personnel to HR and are now seeing the advent of a new wave of human resources focused on people, culture and engagement,” said Ms. Kenefick. “Forward-thinking organizations have recognized the need to create a strategic human capital function to serve as a competitive advantage.”

Caitlin Kenefick is a vice president at Herbert Mines Associates focusing on high-level search assignments for clients within the retail and consumer products industries. She brings a particular focus on merchandising and marketing functions within the vertical specialty and beauty sectors. Ms. Kenefick has worked extensively with public, private, and private-equity backed clients to identify and assess top functional talent.

“Winning organizations are relying on people, more than ever before, to impact the bottom line – whether it is the people on the front line creating great experiences for customers or creating positive work environments where senior leadership is impassioned and emboldened to drive success,” she said.

Strategic Partnership

Ms. Kenefick pointed to a recent conversation with a private equity client, who described the “leadership golden triangle” as having a great CEO, CFO and CHRO. This signals a major paradigm shift away from human resources being seen as a support function, to human resources truly having a seat at the strategic table.

“As the perception of human resources has changed from a back-room to a boardroom function, the people leader can play a bigger role than ever before in impacting business strategy along with the other C-suite leaders,” Ms. Kenefick said.

Employee Engagement

Multiple studies have given rise to the concept that employees, particularly the younger talent force, are just as interested (if not more interested) in quality of life, engagement and fulfillment in their job, as they are in collecting a paycheck.

“Given that company culture has become so important, the role of the people leader has also become more critical so that positive, engaging, ‘people-centric’ cultures can not only attract, but retain top talent,” said Ms. Kenefick.

Innovation and Leveraging Technology

As technology has played a critical role in the evolution of businesses in general, best-in-class organizations are also leveraging technology to enhance all facets of human resources.

Technology and the Workplace: Some New Perspectives
As technology’s impact grows, employers and workers alike see the potential for improving work and the workplace, this according to study by Randstad Sourceright. But many also worry that technological advances could cost people their livelihoods. Eighty-one percent of employers said that are excited about the opportunities that artificial intelligence will present. But 44 percent of working professionals expressed fears about losing their jobs.

“Though more employers are seeking ways to attract candidates and engage their existing workforces, executives do not feel the same anxiety their workers do about technology corroding the work experience and eliminating jobs,” said Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Sourceright. “This disconnect presents an opportunity for employers to attract and retain talent by offering job training, upskilling and assuring them of job security.”

“The HRIS (human resources information systems) function has continued to utilize technology to create efficiencies but we are now seeing organizations transforming the way they recruit, train and communicate with employees to increase engagement and promote culture,” Ms. Kenefick said.

Considerations for Success

Herbert Mines Associates said the following are critical to having a successful people function:

  1. Reporting Structure:To impact change and truly serve as a strategic partner, the top people leader must report to the CEO.
  2. Upgrade the Title:Innovative companies are now changing the name of the top people leader. Moving away from “human resources” to include “people,” “culture” and “engagement” in the title are common ways to upgrade the function and denote the importance of the role, both internally and externally.
  3. Addressing Your Workforce:Similar to changing the title of the people leader, consider changing how you address the people within your organization –partners,” “team members” or “associates” are commonly seen titles within best-in-class organizations.
  4. Leverage Creative Solutions:Forward-thinking companies are strategizing ways to enhance employee productivity, culture and retain top talent. With some organizations considering flexible work hours, four-day work weeks or working remote options. Don’t be afraid to create the solution that is best for your organization.
  5. Fit = Critical:Human resources executives are no longer just functional experts – they are truly brand champions and culture stewards.While getting someone with strong technical expertise is still valuable, consider hiring a people leader that is, first and foremost, the embodiment of your desired culture.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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