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Effectiveness of The HR Business Partner - Measuring The HOW

For most of us, year-end is the time of the year for annual performance reviews. It is that time of year when we, as HR professionals, work with our business leaders on ensuring that good judgement is applied in rewarding and recognising deserving employees. It is also that time of year for us to justify to our HR leaders the value we bring to the business units. How many of us have difficulty in explaining to our HR leaders the value we bring to the table? How many of us yearn to reduce the element of subjectivity that exists in most performance reviews? I, for one, raise both my hands and legs too!My good friend, Abhishek Mittal, Senior Consultant for Towers Watson and one of the world's top HR blogger, recommended I read the book entitled The Trusted Advisor by David Maister. This book is very relevant in quantifying the value we bring to the business. The main theme of this book revolves around how anyone in an advisory role builds trust with clients. Specifically, it dives into the benefits, roadmaps and main obstacles of building trust with clients. Not only it is highly readable, the concepts, principles and ideas are deep in thoughts and rigor.

The biggest takeaway from this book is the concept of Trust Equation. According to Maister, there are four elements that result in how much trust your client accords to you:

  • Credibility via the demonstration of technical expertise
  • Reliability by acting consistently, keeping promises and doing what you say you will do
  • Intimacy by seeing issues from clients' perspectives and dealing with the emotions that the client may harbour, and
  • Selfless orientation by having a servant leadership mentality

To establish the connectedness of these 4 elements, Maister came up with the following formula:

Trust Equation

= (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-orientation

= (C + R + I) / S

Measuring The How

What is beautiful about this Trust Equation is that this can possibly be used as a quantifiable means to measure the effectiveness of the HR professional. Rather than telling our HR leaders how much we are valued by our assigned business leaders, we can use this formula to articulate the values we bring to our clients by either having our clients score our performance or us scoring ourselves on a scale from 1 to 10 in each of these components. This Trust Equation can then form the basis for us to articulate the HOW aspect of our performances.

A Working Example - Self-assessment

Imagine a HR Business Partner is supporting three existing and two new business functions that had recently been assigned during the year. The self-assessment scores for the three existing business functions may be:

  • 1st Function Trust level = (C+R+I )/S = (8+8+9)/3 = 8.3
  • 2nd Function Trust level = (C+R+I )/S = (8+9+6)/3 = 7.7
  • 3rd Function Trust level = (C+R+I )/S = (8+8+9)/4 = 6.3

The self-assessment scores for the two new business functions may be:

  • 4th Function Trust level = (C+R+I )/S = (8+3+4)/5 = 3.0
  • 5th Function Trust level = (C+R+I )/S = (8+7+4)/5 = 3.8

By averaging all the above scores, we have the total average Trust Equation score of 5.8 = (8.0 + 7.3 + 6.3 + 3.0 + 3.8) / 5

Note: A lower number for the self-orientation component means higher selfless orientation towards client, which is good.

As you can see above, simply by assigning a score to the various components, the HR Business Partner is able to:

  • Justify and weight the scoring placed across the business functions
  • Present a holistic view to HR leaders on how the HR Business Partner is engaging assigned clients
  • Enable clients to evaluate and appreciate the value of the HR Business Partner
  • Prioritise improvement actions for the next year

In a Nutshell

As we go about encouraging employees to have meaningful annual performance review discussions with their leaders, we ought to be thinking about how we should go about doing ours. This Trust Equation advocated by David Maister offers a simple yet encompassing way for us to have that discussion. Hopefully this approach would help us to reduce that element of subjectivity of our work.

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