Article (January-2018)


The DNA of partnerships

Prashant Rao

Designation : -   Asst Vice President - HR

Organization : -  Reliance Industries Limited


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The partnerships play a very important role in determining the efficiency and effectiveness of HR professionals. The quality of partnership, the content, the context, the depth, the culture, the work environment, social demographics, the foundations, associated values and behaviors manage the respiratory and circulatory system of the overall physiology of the partnerships.
There has been a lot of debate on building strategic, sustainable effective partnerships. Partnerships for HR professionals on account of transformation of focus from Operational HR to HR Business Partnerships. As Operational HR, HR Professionals tend to focus on distinct, standalone function, center of expertise, epicenter of power and look forward for people to approach HR in case of any issues whereas the HR business partnerships calls for collaboration, empowering line managers as HR managers, approaching, influencing an engaging with managers as a process centric approach in a continual way to build strong partnerships. The responsibility of building strong sustainable strategic partnership models for HR professionals lies with the organization, managers and the employee himself. This article is aimed to create and build insights and help HR professionals who believe in the power of partnerships to position themselves as effective partners for individual and organization's perspective.
1. Prerequisites for partnerships
The prerequisites of strong partnerships depend on the objectives for the need of partnerships, purpose, intentions and outcomes of the partnerships, diagnosis of the present approach, challenges, cultural influences' and the capacities and organizational capabilities to sustain the applications and outcomes of the partnership models.
1.1 Belief in partnerships
The success of any partnership lies in the strong foundations of belief in the partnership for success of any initiative, process, outcome or intervention. The belief puts forward the strong focus on the emotional needs of being in partnerships. This facilitates the mutual trust and faith in each other's competence and capacities to contribute for the greater success. The innate belief of achieving success out of partnership models an emotional enriched engagement for the stakeholders to put the value propositions from heart to mind for final executions. These partnerships are natural and have flair for sustainability and have power to build strategic directions as a cultural manifestation in the organization. The indicators of deep commitment, conviction, inspire leadership in the belief of power of partnerships energizes the ecosystem to channelize the sustenance of the impact and the purpose.The need to have an amicable environment nurtures the growth of building a partnership culture in the organization. The non - existence of the right context and an appropriate environment only leads to mechanical partnerships which are more out of compulsion rather than natural partnerships. The shell life of such partnerships is very short and are more on account of reasons as required for accomplishment of objectives.
1.2 Power of purpose
The power of purpose is the vision and mission for which the partnerships are lived. The partners aspire to contribute for the big purpose and the purpose defines the reasons for the existence of the partnerships. The clarity of the purpose defines the acquisition and acceleration of the formal and informal partnerships. The purpose defines the constitution, the broad framework for the expectations and the outcomes/delivery of the partnerships. The power of purpose inspires and motivates the stakeholders to build unseen energy and propels capacities to contribute while gearing up with the required alignments. The purpose defines the reasons and determines the life span of a partnership model and fosters team work as a value. 
1.3 Continual connect
Continual connect nurtures the partnership, and flourishes it beyond the purpose and responsibilities. The process of continual connect helps in building required communications and collaborations for strengthening the bonds of partnerships. The continual connect also helps in strengthening the engagements and enriches the experiences and required exposures. The continual connect provides opportunities to showcase the strengths of the stakeholders as potential contributors, opens up the parachute of ideas, suggestions and sharing of perspectives for building the positive outcomes and in defining the futuristic actions. More than anything else the continual connect refines the depth of purposeful social interpersonal relationship in the work environment. Non-existence of the continual connect in any partnership models fosters pockets of excellence and develop barriers for consolidation of collective wisdom for solutions.
1.4 Shared values
The shared values provide the purpose of being in partnerships. It is important for stakeholders to appreciate and demonstrate the shared values, which provide the strength of sustainability and continuity. Shared values provide the momentum to the circle of influence as necessary for the partnerships to cherish in good and bad times. Great partnerships are built on strong foundations of equity, respect, transparency, commitment, patience and persistence, which act as a catalytical fuel in strengthening the partnerships.  The demonstration and role modelling of shared define the boundaries of operating behaviors in the social and organization ecosystem. This clearly stipulates the non - negotiable and non - acceptable elements and provide framework of threshold tolerance limits.  The framework of shared values is very important for developing and determining the cultural aspects for partnerships. The absence of shared values for stakeholders in any partnership model may lead to volatility, anxiety, ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty with risk of dilution of partnerships.
1.5 Ownership
The initiativeness and proactive contributions with accountability of results determine the ownership. The ownership has very strong connotations on collective responsibility and accountability for all the outcomes. Building ownership and demonstration of ownership by all stakeholders is important pre requisite for powerful partnerships. The ownership needs to be felt by all the stakeholders and the purpose of the same needs to be demonstrated in all the communications. This facilitate the inspiring context from stakeholders to go beyond the call of duty to pursue excellence.
The ownership for any partnership is flourished by the inspiring leadership and the environmental values which exist in the organization. The ownership provides the framework for all stakeholders to deliver from the heart and builds entrepreneurial capacities of the participating team members. The ownership in the partnerships build sustaining behaviors, about what has been achieved rather than who has achieved what, in case of failures what can be done now, rather than whose act has led to the failure. Absence of ownership in any partnership models deteriorates the pillars of the existence and have dangers of losing out from the partnerships.
1.6 Continuity of communications
The continuity of communication both formal and informal is yet another a very important pre - requisite for the partnerships. The formal and informal communications provide an interim state of affairs on the overall health of the partnerships and enables the stakeholders to undertake mid - course corrections as required. 
The process of continual communication also helps in engaging and enriching the stakeholder's experience and provides an immediate feedback. The continuity of communications builds the ongoing network and interpersonal relations as required for the partnerships to flourish. Absence of continual communication with the stakeholders diminishes the quality of collaborations and may lead to erosion of partnerships as a state of affair.
1.7 Reviewing partnerships
The reviewing of the partnerships is very important aspect for building a strong framework for futuristic aspirations. The role of partners needs to be reviewed at appropriate stages so as to sensitize the stakeholders on the overall strengths which flourished the partnerships and improvement opportunities for future course corrections.  The review of partnerships provides opportunities for all stakeholders to openly share up the perspectives, and a framework of governance for continuous improvements in the quality of partnerships.
2.0 The process of partnerships
Partnership is a continual process of engaging with stakeholders for achieving an objective which involves shared vision, mission, process and result with collective ownership of outcomes. The partnerships are more than just collaborations and move beyond responsibility for results. The physiology of effective partnerships revolve around enriched relationships of co creating shared values, shared risks, shared responsibilities and optimum channelization, transmission and distribution of  derived energies for interdependencies and leveraging upon the combined collective strengths.

2.1 Purpose, Mission and Vision

The initiation of partnerships needs a strong purpose the mission and overall linkages and alignments with the vision. This needs clear diagnosis and articulation of establishing the need and identification of areas which the partnerships shall cover to accomplish the overall objectives. The process needs to facilitate all the stakeholders to collectively create the purpose and mission for the partnerships. The process includes defining the outcomes of the successful engagements in partnerships, investigating the risks and rewards for sustainability of the partnerships.
2.2 Co Create outcomes & share expectations
The voyage of partnerships is full of challenges, the challenges can be overcome by continual sharing of outcomes, purpose, mission, vision and collective creation of outcomes with joint accountabilities for successes and failures. The process is nurtured well when the stakeholders are appreciative and demonstrate the values as required for long lasting successful partnerships. The enriched partnerships grown on strong pillars of building and sustaining trust with honest conversations, speaking shared languages, listening to concerns, sustaining connects and acknowledging & respecting difference of perspectives with focus on what needs to be done rather than why the same has not happened.
2.3 Review & Governance
The governance mechanism is very important for a partnership model to flourish, the need to have a code of conduct for the stakeholders help in building and sustaining the operational perspectives of partnerships. The governance mechanisms helps the stakeholders to hold each other accountable for the objectives and ensure collective ownership to assimilate, acquire and accelerate the actions as required for the accomplishment for overall objectives. 
2.4 Measure effectiveness and share learnings
The measurement of effectiveness of partnerships is dependent on the achievement of the purpose for which the partnership model is designed. The key learnings derived out of any partnership models helps in building knowledge and sharing of experiences helps in building excellence for future interventions of partnerships. A system to measure effectiveness also helps in building the leadership capacities of the stakeholders with focus on values expertise for enriching the effectiveness of partnerships.
3.0 Core competencies for partnerships
There are four core competencies which needs to be mastered by HR Business Partners for capacity building in strategic sustainable partnerships and includes Collaboration, Communication, Influence & Consulting.

3.1 Collaboration

Collaboration for HR Business Partners is all about demonstrating focus on networks, relationships, connects, building trust and continual purposeful engagements. The process of collaboration revolves around developing good internal network through effective working relationships and maintain rapport with diverse stakeholders, monitoring network with the content and process.
Connect is gateway to effective collaborations for partnerships. Building strong connects with the right connects through meaningful personal and social interactions, this shall help in knowing the stakeholders to a great extent beyond formal roles which shall help to establish connects for effective relationships. 
3.2 Communication
The quality of communication plays a very important role in building effective partnerships and this can be further enhanced through how well HR Professionals respond to the stakeholders and provide solutions as required.
Communication focuses upon abilities to communicate organization culture, values, proactive partnerships on HR initiatives, and collaboration with stakeholders for deployment of HR processes. The demonstrated skills and behaviors associated with this competency include working with diverse stakeholders for smooth execution of processes, proactively partnering with other functions to deliver integrated solutions, responding to stakeholder's needs and driving the overall communication agenda.
The process of communication may sound very simple but yet it is one of the most vibrant and challenging process for HR partners. The communication needs to be simple, effective, straight forward, consistent, catalytically continuous, purposeful, impactful with full of facilitations, and a very powerful tool for engaging with stakeholders for great partnerships. Communication is the strongest tool which HR professionals need to sharpen day in and day out. The communication is the source of inspirations which guides, introspects and channelizes all our energies in building effective partnerships with stakeholders.
3.3 Influence 
The HR professionals are expected to influence day in and day out and the challenge lies in keeping up the continual enriched engagements of influence. Planning out structured communications, investments in thinking, and translating our thoughts into powerful influence are key ingredients for building strong perspectives in influencing and consulting roles.
Influence as a competency on HR BP effectiveness focuses upon abilities to facilitate, convince, share own point of view, to manage conflicts, manage competing personalities, resolve team problems, leveraging external networks and inspiring stakeholders to performs well.
This process may require one to one or one to much facilitation for bringing the appropriate collaborations. It is always not possible to have 100% agreements. The process shall have many conflicts in the form of dissent, suggestions, aggressions, assertions, and the challenge is to bring consensus and unified aligned strategies for actions for the partners. The effectiveness of communication builds up the influence and convincing skills which is very important for building strong collaborations with the stakeholders. 
3.4 Consulting
Consulting is an important competence requirement for HR Business Partners, the objective of consulting is schematic applications of facilitation in sharing, exploring, identifying and building new perspectives with common framework of understanding for effective deployment with co-created commitments, convictions and ownership.
Day in and Day out HR professionals need to engage with Business Managers and apply consulting. The consulting as a competency can be honed up by HR professionals through appropriate scanning of environment, understanding the content & context, being non-judgmental and offering a wide range of perspectives and catalyzing mangers with pro, cons, impacts and consequential management so as to help and sensitize them with the required appropriate perspectives in an engaging and inspiring work environment.
Building partnerships is an art and science, the art of building partnership is all about building strong capacities and capabilities of communication, collaboration, influence and consulting. The science of partnership is all about customizing and aligning the process of partnership with business objectives to make the whole process of partnerships as an impactful and purposeful intervention for the organization to deliver results through people processes.
The partnership can excel and add value propositions as interventions when the context and environments in which they operate have deep commitment and conviction for achieving outcomes through practicing participative management models. 
The time is ripe now to focus on building strategic and sustainable partnerships so as to add value propositions for the profession and the organization with practicing and mastering the core competence requirements and enriching the experiences and exposures of judicious applications of the appropriate customized and aligned partnership models.