Transitioning HR Talent: From Your Defensive to Your Offensive Line 

Transitioning HR Talent: From Your Defensive to Your Offensive Line


How the HR Talent Scale walks you from defensive to your offensive line by diagnosing your organization’s current HR.

Almost everyone loves sports analogies. Today, we are seeing the backbone of organizations going through a major team reorganization: The Human Resources department is switching its strategic role as the team supporting the work of HR is increasingly recognized as one of the most precious intangible assets a company: its people. 

The era of HR as party planners and the sole source of employee appreciation is over.

Traditionally, HR has been the defensive line of the organization. Human Resources departments historically formed and existed to protect companies, and to administer general support (often mandated by governments at the local, state and federal levels) to employees: worker’s comp, audits, compliance, risk management, benefits administration, employee relations and payroll, just to name a few.

But heading into the 2020s, Human Resources is becoming the company’s offensive line. Its goal is not only to protect, but also to put points on the board—to help the company win the game. And the game is who gets the best talent on the market, and who can can keep them. 

Building a great offensive line doesn’t happen overnight.

To help diagnose the state of an organization’s current HR and the various areas of the company it influences, Cerius Executives has put together the HR Talent Scale. The scale walks through what a company looks like when it is in a pure reactionary (Defensive) state versus how it acts when it is in a forward-thinking (Offensive) state.

So how does a company better leverage its newest offensive line and move toward forward-thinking on the talent scale? We look to the experts for their advice on some common offensive strategies. 

Reducing Turnover in HR Talent 

Bettye Hill, who has accumulated more than twenty years in HR leadership for brands such as Walgreen and Oshkosh, shares a strategy for reducing turnover: “There is an ROI on human capital. Some turnover is good, but there is a cost if you have a rate that is higher than average. To get to the root, ask the employees who are both leaving and staying. Once you find the underlying cause, you will see what can be done to help people feel like they want to stay. This can then become part of the company’s competitive edge. Employees’ lives are changing. When companies are able to meet them where they are, the company has a better chance of retaining them.”

We have seen organizations offer new and unique benefits and strategies to retain talent ranging from eldercare benefits, remote work, and adjusting work schedules if the bus route changes. In a tight labor market where everyone is fishing in the same pond, a strategic human resources leader can make a big impact on both the top and bottom line. 

Workforce Planning

There is a reason workforce planning is at the top of our talent scale. Without a forward-looking mindset continually scanning the organizational environment for what talent is needed and when, an organization will always be behind and trying to catch up. A strong HR leader can take the reins and simplify the workforce planning process to the point that any company, no matter the size, can manage and leverage it. 

James Perkins works with companies on looking ahead with workforce planning. When you are on the offensive, you get to pick the play rather than trying to defend the play the other team picked.  

James says, “Look at talent not just for today or twelve months out. You want to look at it for a three-to-five-year period. Develop a profile of success for people within the organization. Develop profiles the right type of skills for key roles, along with retention models; build in redundancy in your staff to make it less likely they will all go away at a certain time. You can recruit the best people, but if there is no plan to develop them properly and convince them to stay, they will reach a state of stagnation and will leave.”

Outsource As Needed

Bettye’s advice for accomplishing it all: “To keep up with the evolution, companies are outsourcing either their defensive or offensive line.”

It can be challenging for companies to keep up-to-date on compliance while still focusing on recruiting and retaining talent. At times, the two goals seem at odds with each other. Companies like TriNet, a national PEO provider, help companies with the compliance and administrative tasks to free them up to focus on the strategic goal of becoming a more talent-centric organization.

Geena Martinez, a TriNet Account Executive, explains, “Outsourced companies take on the administrative burden that had traditionally been the bread and butter of HR so companies free up their HR to focus on their strategic revenue-generating activities. On average, companies are spending 85% of their HR resources focusing on administrative activities versus revenue-generating–not the other way around. Outsourcing the administrative tasks can free up internal HR to hone in on recruiting and retention, looking at specific skill sets and sourcing top talent.”

All-star teams are not built overnight, but they can be more affordable and built more quickly than you think. Take stock in the company’s core competencies and the best efforts to leverage the resources internally versus what can (and should) be outsourced. Through outsourced solutions such as PEOs or interim executives, working with the internal team, a company can move along the HR talent scale from reacting to the other team to forward-thinking offensive action.

All great games start with a plan, practice, and a dedicated coach who keeps all eyes on the prize.

Start with one key HR focus area that will make the biggest impact for your organization on the HR Talent Scale this year, and add it to this year’s strategic planning meeting.

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