When HR Works Best, It’s When HR Serves as a Trusted Advisor

Article main image
Oct 1, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

I had the privilege of speaking to an audience of HR practitioners at the HR Florida State Conference recently. I also had my first book signing, which felt really odd, but yet [I must admit] pretty cool.

There was only one young woman asking me to sign my book early on, so I had a chance to chat with her. I asked her what she did. Her response blew me away.

I would never have guessed that her role was Human Resources based on what she initially shared.

She told me about her company, about an intentional shift in marketing that they were making based upon what seemed to be an emerging need of their customers. She told me about the dialogue that occurred with the leadership team that led to the shift in strategy and about the cultural changes that this shift would necessitate.

Her excitement and energy were genuine. Her ability to articulate her business was phenomenal.

I finally asked her about her role. She had only been with the organization for a short time, and apparently walked into a poorly performing HR department as the new Director. She talked about how she prioritized what she needed to focus on, and about the remarkable results she had facilitated so far.

She talked about her relationship with the CEO; about what seemed a mutual respect among equals. She sighed, and said she still had so much to do – but there was light in her eyes as she said this.

Here’s what blew me away

She identified as a leader in the organization, rather than as HR. She was able to talk about the business, the strategy and generated excitement about their future. She didn’t limit herself to the work of HR; she knew her work was the business.

She dazzled me. Her enthusiasm for what she could contribute to the organization made me want to join it.

HR was secondary for her; at least, her macro view of the work she did was the business. She shared a real accountability for the success of the business. I would love to be a fly on the wall and listen to their leadership team’s conversations as I suspect “the people part of the business” would be a prominent fixture.

HR cannot be insular

HR is so complex and regulated these days that practitioners often can’t emerge from the daily grind of employee relations.

This young woman wasn’t burdened with HR stuff; she walked and talked the business strategy. Getting a sense of her commitment through the conversation, I suspect that the HR work was completed, and not sacrificed in favor of the more fun business strategy. In fact, she said that her CEO was very proud of how she had cleaned up the prior director’s mess.

I was impressed. I may have had the chance to meet a real “trusted advisor.”

This originally appeared on Carol Anderson’s blog @the intersection of learning & performance

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.