A Seat at the Table? “It Does Not Guarantee That People Listen to You”

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a provocateur and strategist in the field of human resources and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms, and he’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos twice a week here at TLNT.

Today’s topic: The HR seat at the table debate

Dr. John Sullivan is typically blunt when he talks about the ongoing debate over whether HR has earned a “seat at the table.”

“My little brother … had a seat at our dining table, but nobody listened to him. So to me it’s silly; a seat at the table is not the goal,” he says. “It’s influence. It’s people listening to you. It’s people acting on your ideas. And that can come without a seat at the table … but having a seat does not guarantee that people listen to you.”

Executives who are “at the table,” he points out, are risk takers who focus on business problems. “So, if you are going to have a seat at the table … you need to learn their  business language, you need to learn to solve business problems.”

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The bottom line, Dr. John says, is to have the courage to not speak about HR issues but rather about business problems. And if you can manage people and labor effectively, which makes up for about 60 percent of business costs, “you’re going to have business results.”

Did you miss the last segment of$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” on “Why Recruitment Process Outsourcing Isn’t All It’s Cracked up to Be” You can see it here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.