How HR can claim it’s place at the strategy table
HR leaders across the world want a seat at the strategy table. Sadly, they find they are not asked to sit down. Why?
To get a seat at the strategy table, HR first needs to be strategic!
This rallying cry of wanting to be “strategic,” could mean one of two things: having a role and voice in business strategy and/ or being asked for HR input on business issues. But examined critically, those become outcomes; they have to be worked toward and earned.
Of course, HR can earn a strategic role, but it means thinking in an entirely different way.
The C-suite is eagerly looking at HR to prove its mettle and stake its claim at the executive table. After all, a company is only as good as its workforce, and HR is largely responsible with building that winning team.
HR, more enabler than strategic influencer
Looking at HR’s trajectory over the years, it’s easy to see how its importance has diminished steadily. In other words, its viewed more as an enabler – focused on operational tasks – and not a strategic partner.
While other functions have been demanding technology and automation to up their ante – HR is lagging far behind. 2015 saw $2.4 billion in VC funding for HR tech and new HR tech startups, but many companies still aren’t investing in this technology. But if HR departments shift their focus to become big-goal advisors, who contribute to a company’s strategy and direction, they can not only campaign for better technology platforms, but also earn that coveted seat at the table.
Considering people data
HR tech and analytics need to be focused on strategy, data, and analysis, with the KPIs focused of advancing the value of the company. Yet, let’s not forget that HR is all about people.
These analytics could measure employees in terms of the value they add to the overall company strategy. HR needs to adopt a long term view of the situation and realize that instead of concentrating on hire rate, they should make sure they’re recruiting the right people who directly contribute to the company’s main goal and help them progress on the roadmap to success.
Similarly, instead of endlessly debating employee retention percentages, the HR team should evaluate whether they’re keeping the people who truly matter to the company goals, and reorganizing the unnecessary roles or the underperforming employees.
Well, it isn’t HR’s responsibility alone to figure out what a company’s strategic objectives should be. Executives must play an active part in identifying the strategic objectives, and collaborate with HR to determine how the talent of an organization individually and collectively need to develop, work and be staffed in order to achieve organizational goals.
Say for example, a company’s goal is to become number one in customer satisfaction — the actions and analytics of the HR team must directly be linked to the hiring, training, developing, motivating, retaining people with good customer skills. The company cannot provide the best experience to its customers without the right, qualified people in those key positions, with the right measurements to analyze and course correct if needed.
Thinking like a C-suite executive
In other words, HR needs to think strategically. In most organizations, HR is an overhead department, a cost centre. A business cannot get away with providing products and services that do not add value to the customer for very long. Eventually, they lose the business. It’s hard to fire an overhead department, but the business can influence cost reductions beyond what is reasonable if leaders don’t see value in the work being done.
HR has to shift this paradigm and think like a business owner concerned with budgets and customer satisfaction. HR should define its customers (employees, leaders, customers and other stakeholders), identify their needs, provide products and services that meet those needs.
HR has often been wrongfully accused of not being future-focused. Individualized and collective HR analytics should be forward-moving, rather than retrospective and backward-facing. If HR wants to be a true strategic partner bringing significant information to the executive table, HR practitioners need to be focused on lead indicators rather than lag indicators.
This could mean ensuring the right person in the right job, high employee engagement, talent transformation programs, rich avenues for L&D.
As HR becomes more of a strategic force within an organization, using forward-thinking analytics and making talent-related decisions informed by the overall company objective, it can take a seat at the major-player table. HR will become the advisor in all matters about the people in the organization that it should be, rather than focusing on tactical items that miss the big picture of getting the company where it wants to go.
We hope you found these ideas useful and are ready to claim your seat at the table! Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.