A fundamental personality clash may explain why HR practitioners in financial services companies often experience misunderstandings and even conflict when dealing with internal clients, according to assessment specialist Talent Q.

In a study of the personality profiles of 5,000 financial services employees, Talent Q found that the ‘typical’ professional in the sector is a competitive, achievement-oriented, persuasive communicator who likes data, evidence, structure and detail. However, these traits are very different from those of the typical HR practitioner, who is more consultative, more willing to allow others to take the lead and less likely to rigidly adhere to rules, processes and deadlines.

“Our study shows that, in financial services companies, an HR practitioner has a fundamentally different working style to a typical line manager,” said Richard MacKinnon, Head of Learning & Development Solutions at Talent Q. “Confusion and disagreements can therefore occur when the two parties interact with each other because HR practitioners are essentially trying to be collaborative and supportive in a world which values being forceful and direct.”

While Talent Q’s study concentrated on the world of financial services, the company believes that this is a wider problem which exists in other sectors too.

“In our experience, many HR practitioners are working outside of their ‘comfort zone’, for example by adhering to strict procedures rather than being more spontaneous, which would be their natural preference,” said Richard MacKinnon. “It’s no wonder that some practitioners claim that a lack of understanding exists internally about their role and about the expertise they bring to the business.”

Talent Q claims that, given the differences in working style, the only real option for HR practitioners who want to become more influential, and want to deal more effectively with internal stakeholders, is to change their role.

“They need to shift their focus and develop their technical, interpersonal and professional skills to become what we refer to as ‘HR Entrepreneurs’,” said Richard MacKinnon.

According to Talent Q, an HR Entrepreneur is someone who line managers want to work with: a confident advisor and a trusted expert who can simplify HR processes and align with the business strategy, because they have a clear and up-to-date understanding of the talent management environment and the industry in which they work. They can provide a more articulate and confident HR influence – through their technical prowess, diplomacy and improved client management – which can bring greater objectivity and fairness to recruitment and talent management processes.

“Development programmes designed to nurture and improve the skills of an HR Entrepreneur are now available,” said Richard MacKinnon. “Ultimately, if HR is unable to reconcile its fundamental personality clash with the business, more organisations may look to resolve this problem themselves by completely outsourcing their HR operations.”