I recently learned that a friend of mine is leaving Human Resources for a temporary assignment as a front-line manager. He’ll be managing a group of production workers and supervisors at one of his company’s plants.
This is a relatively common move within his company for HR employees (on a leadership track); operations experience is viewed as a prerequisite to having credibility with one’s client group.
Put another way: At his company, if you’re a support employee that works closely with or advises the business, you don’t need to simply know the business, you need to have worked in the business.
…I’ve never given a lot of thought to moving cross function (I still have a lot to learn about HR first), but my friend’s experience here really got me thinking about the value add for HR professionals.
As HR Managers and Business Partners (and even in specialist functions like Compensation) we very much take on a consultative role with our client groups. Among other things, they come to us with questions around succession planning, pay, and engagement. All of these questions are best answered by someone that deeply understands the work done by the client group he or she is supporting.
If you’re supporting a manufacturing site, having experience as a plant or department Superintendent makes you much more valuable to the business when conducting talent talks, advising on retention/engagement strategies, doing job valuations, assisting with performance reviews etc. This same thing is just as true of someone working as an IT Business Partner (a background as a Programmer or Business Analyst helps) or Business Partner to Accounting or Finance.
By understanding (from experience) the needs, motivations, and work of the people one supports, the value add it’s possible to provide increases dramatically.
…Conversely, working in a space cross-functionally is a lateral move (occasionally even a step back) that has limited value to the employee making it outside of a narrow range of career paths.
In other words, if you’re going to interrupt your HR career to learn more about another function, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that you want to support that function in some capacity over the long haul… or at least long enough to get a commensurate ROI.
What do I have wrong here? What did I get right?
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