Have HR strategic partners left the building? The (new) role of HR professionals from a social-symbolic perspective

Roberta Cuel, Aurelio Ravarini, Barbara Imperatori, Gilda Antonelli, Teresina Torre

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivista


PurposeThis manuscript explores the evolving roles of HR professionals amidst global megatrends and organizational transitions, focusing on the Italian context, which has experienced disruptive adoption of new forms of work such as remote and hybrid work. In this challenging scenario, our research aims to uncover if and how HR professionals are transforming their roles or maintaining the status quo in navigating organizational changes, dealing with the upcoming working scenario, and challenging conventional perceptions of HR practitioners.Design/methodology/approachThe study employs the social-symbolic work lens, that contributes to a deeper understanding of how HR professionals work to construct organizational life, the identities of employees, and the societal norms and assumptions that provide the context for organizational action. This perspective highlights HR professionals' personal efforts, consisting of the emotional labor entailed in steering organizational transformations and, eventually, maintenance in a context where remote work has become prevalent. Data was collected through 16 online focus groups involving 76 HR professionals from Italian organizations.FindingsOur research offers two interrelated contributions to HR literature. First, we provide pieces of evidence on how HR practitioners act as agents of change in two emerging roles: the "Wannabe Hero" and the "Ordinary Hero". This challenges the prevailing rhetorical discourse about the so-called HR business partner. Secondly, we delve into the persistent obstacles that hinder HR professionals from making a substantial impact in addressing radical changes. These findings will provide useful insights into effectively engaging HR practitioners as agents of change in organizational transformation, shedding light on praxis, structures, and their emotional work.Originality/valueThe paper analyzes HR professionals' social-symbolic work, which offers an original contribution to the comprehension of the activities they carry on in practice and the emotions they have been experiencing. These influence both the way HR professionals play their role and the organizational and institutional environment.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)N/A-N/A
RivistaPersonnel Review
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2024


  • HR activism
  • HR professionals
  • HR role
  • New forms of working
  • Social-symbolic work


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