Editor’s Note: HR as a Business

By Debbie Bolla

If you want to be a business partner, you need to think like a business partner.

This philosophy has helped Brian Little reshape how Zurich North America approaches HR. When the head of HR joined the insurance provider six years ago, he had an agreement with the CEO that HR would have a seat at the table. What helped in ensuring that promise was HR earning some big wins.

Acting as a business partner, HR has taken steps to:
• prove its value to the business;
• show that it can save money; and
• help the profitability of the business.

Now HR is seen as a core part of the business, Little said during a CHRO panel at the HRO Today Forum in Chicago this past May. But this transformation didn’t come without a major shift in thinking. How did Little achieve this? He explained that he invested in training so that HR team members understood how to talk like a business, think strategically, and execute on strategy.

“Each time I talk with a business partner, we start with how the business is doing, then we look at the HR side,” he said.

And the HR side is making a big impact. The “Zurich Oxygen” program, which Little discusses in detail in the cover story, has helped move the employee engagement needle by 6 percentage points to 72 percent. Zurich Oxygen has also increased managerial satisfaction scores in the areas of sharing information and clearly communicating the business strategy.

Three clear indicators that Little’s approach to HR as a business is working for the global insurance provider.

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