HR Insights, HR Management

How Can HR Add Real Business Value? It Takes More Than a Seat at the Table

From the HR blog at TLNT

“Finally – some strong evidence that giving HR pros the proverbial ‘seat at the table’ actually can raise company profits.”

Really? Simply putting one individual at the executive table will have that kind of an impact? Wow – some of us must have super-powers.

So what do I, as an HR leader, do with this ground-breaking research? Place it on the CEO’s desk and say “Here … proof I can do something great and should be at the table”? And he’ll believe me because the research is there?

The research, by a leading Human Capital Management technology company (Success Factors), asserts that the seat at the table is possible because of “leveraging the insights that only come from advanced, connected HCM solutions that manage the entire employee lifecycle.”

What HR REALLY needs to do

It’s my opinion, after many, many years, that HR will earn respect when we do something that drives value and revenue in the overall business, not because we have a state-of-the-art technology program, or because the CEO gave us the chair based upon this research.

So, how do we drive value and revenue in the overall business?

  • By making sure that leaders are skilled at developing talent and accountable for business performance. This is it, folks – the raison d’etre for HR. It is the single most effective way to build a high performing workforce – by developing leaders who see the value, take the time, and do it right.
  • By providing leaders and employees what they need, when they need it, in order to effectively do their jobs. Too often, we use the “zip open the head and pour in facts” method of providing important information to leaders and employees, hoping that at the critical point where they need the information, they will remember it. With today’s technology options, that is inexcusable. Technology can provide just in time knowledge and learning. It takes creativity to structure knowledge this was, but it can (and should) be done.
  • By meticulously defining workforce needs and assessing talent to fill those needs. HR has the opportunity to help business leaders think. Most are so busy that they don’t have time to stop and think about the future or their workforce needs. An efficient, facilitated process that helps to forecast the future work and future workforce needs can be a tremendous help to leaders.
  • By having the courage to highlight and defend important work that many leaders don’t take seriously or have the time for. This is a little more difficult. It requires a big deep breath, and a lot of patience and resilience. But the way to do it is through providing accurate and timely business intelligence that proves your point. And you may have to fail a few times before you experience breakthrough.
  • By building trusting relationships with leaders and employees. Too many times I have heard, “uh-oh, here comes HR – must be bad.” We cannot afford to have that reputation, or we haven’t a hope or a prayer of building trust. Figure out what the level of trust is now, investigate the “root cause” and fix it.
  • By ensuring that “HR work” is as easy as possible. Don’t make leaders and employees crazy trying to complete processes. Get leaders and employees involved in the design, and listen to their feedback.

Building a real road map

Apologies to the folks who pushed the “seat at the table” research because I’m sure that they weren’t really saying that just sitting at the table is sufficient to improve profitability. They know that HR has to DO something.

But until we help HR DO the work that will build the trust in their work, it’s very theoretical and difficult to know where to go first.

Advice: Always start by looking critically at what IS right now. Then build a road-map to what could be.

This originally appeared on the ….@ the intersection of learning & performance blog.

Carol Anderson is a Principal with Anderson Performance Partners a boutique consulting firm with the mission of helping the HR profession be as valuable to their clients as possible, intersecting performance and learning to actually drive organizational results. She has held HR leadership roles in health care, financial services, retail and the military. Most recently she served as Chief Learning Officer for a large health care system in Central Florida, with responsibility for talent development, leadership, professional and clinical education and team member engagement. Contact her at carol@andersonperformancepartners.com.
  • Alex

    The fact that Jack Welch, one of the best CEO’s of modern times, claims that HR is the most important aspect of a successful business should speak volumes as to how important HR really is. Part of the confusion is that most people don’t really know how to define HR and what it does, it’s always a vague notion.

    • Carol MacDonald Anderson

      I agree Alex. A friend of mine who is an operational leader made a similar comment to me – “I just don’t know what HR does.” That’s a pretty damning statement, in my mind.

  • Tim Kuppler

    Great points and I would add the following point for driving value:
    - By helping the organization understand, leverage, manage and improve their unique culture to further support performance.

    • Carol MacDonald Anderson

      Excellent addition, Tim. Thank you.

  • http://www.talentstrategygroup.com/ Marc Effron

    Thanks Carol — The fact that Success Factors would publish such unsubstantiated crap is an embarrassment to them and insulting to the HR field. They might want to spend more time making their software easier to use and less time conducting valueless research.

    • Carol MacDonald Anderson

      Thanks for your comment Marc – in my mind, that is one of HR’s biggest challenges – like other in the business community they believe that there is a quick fix.

  • Charles T Walsh

    Getting A Seat at the Table is a metaphor not a physical move. It clearly means and has meant for many years that the level of knowledge, and skills ate there BUT the HR professional must e able to generate and apply useful information that not only adds value and impact to the bottom line but also significantly impacts ROI on human capital investments. This demands effective INFLUENCE SKILLS. If anyone believes that the concept of a “seat at the table” only means a physical seat without the knowledge, skills, and capacity to influence impact, then the so called seat becomes only symbolic and HR becomes what it has become in so many organizations – a necessary overhead that only drives compliance and “whims” for “flavor of the month” . I invite anyone to visit our guest blog at Getting A Seat at the Table is a metaphor not a physical move. It clearly means and has meant for many years that the level of knowledge, and skills ate there BUT the HR professional must e able to generate and apply useful information that not only adds value and impact to the bottom line but also significantly impacts ROI on human capital investments. This demands effective INFLUENCE SKILLS. If anyone believes that the concept of a “seat at the table” only means a physical seat without the knowledge, skills, and capacity to influence impact, then the so called seat becomes only symbolic and HR becomes what it has become in so many organizations – a necessary overhead that only drives compliance and “whims” for “flavor of the month” . I invite anyone to visit our guest blog at http://triplecrownleadership.com/creating-alignment-balance-through-high-performance-leadership/

    • Carol MacDonald Anderson

      Thanks for your comment Charles – I agree with what you said, and intended the opening to be a bit “tongue in cheek.” I bristle when the hard work you define is over-simplified and minimized, thus my thoughts about the steps.

  • steve

    Really ? This is still a topic?

    • Carol MacDonald Anderson

      Apparently is is quite an active topic, Steve. Unfortunate, is it not?