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Amoco Trains Its HR Team Members To Be Internal Consultants

October 1, 1997
Related Topics: HR Services and Administration, The HR Profession, Featured Article
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Consulting skills are all about personal efficacy," explains Bill Clover, manager of training at Amoco Corp., a $32 billion (current revenue) petroleum and chemical company based in Chicago. Internal personnel consultants, as individuals, must be able to make things happen.

Since January, Amoco's HR educators have been working diligently to help the company's "internal partners" (the term the company likes to call its HR people) do just that. They're also helping HR individuals achieve HR's new mission, which is to: "Provide leadership and support to management by developing, integrating and implementing HR strategies that maximize employee and organizational effectiveness in concert with Amoco's goals." Of the company's 525 HR professionals, 100 have already gone through an "intervention process" (Amoco managers feel that they're providing their people a higher level process than just a "program") that's edu-cating them on internal consulting skills, especially those involving change management and business acumen. "We're trying to create an intervention, not just teach skills," says Clover.

It all started with Amoco's senior HR leader, Wayne Anderson, several years ago, when he envisioned the organization's human resources department moving from an administrative function to a consultative function. It's his vision that HR professionals spend their time in the following areas: 25 percent on strategic HR planning, 50 percent on consultative and developmental projects, and 25 percent on administrative HR tasks. Currently, however, HR professionals at Amoco spend 65 percent of their time on administrative HR tasks, 25 percent on consulting and developmental activities, and only 10 percent on HR planning. That's not what senior HR managers at Amoco think is the right role for their HR staff members.

Amoco's HR executives want their HR professionals to move from focusing their efforts on developing and administering a wide variety of people processes and tools to addressing organizational capability and people issues that are directly related to business strategies and results. They also want them to move toward diagnosing problems, developing integrated solutions, marshaling resources and delivering specific expertise to particular business issues. They want them to focus on being sig- nificant contributors to achieving business results in a world-class corporation rather than just developing world-class HR programs in a vacuum.

The intervention consists of a weeklong course that involves HR professionals learning about Amoco's general business model, getting specific feedback about their capabilities, understanding HR's role and mission and interacting with their peers and executive managers.

Although only one-fifth of the company's HR professionals has gone through the intervention process, those who have participated are reporting good results. "People are coming back and saying that after they got back from their session, they were faced right away with challenges they were systematically able to focus their skills on," says Clover. Amoco HR professionals are generally feeling that their skills are becoming better honed and refined through this intervention process.

As a result, Amoco's 42,000 employees are begin- ning to experience the effects of their internal HR con- sultants' newly enhanced professional capabilities. It must be making a difference for the human resources people and their customers.

Workforce, October 1997, Vol. 76, No. 10, p. 58 .

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