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

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Nov 12, 2013

“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.