Here’s What HR Should Be Doing to Have More Business Impact

How can HR become more strategic? Is there an opportunity for HR to have a much bigger impact on business performance?

A 2012 PwC study found that organizations are looking for leadership from HR. In the survey, 62 percent of business executives felt that human resources departments need to serve a leadership role in managing skill and talent shortages.

In a 2014 Deloitte study, less than 8 percent of HR leaders reported confidence that their teams have the skills needed to meet challenges and drive business impact. 42 percent of business leaders believed their HR teams are underperforming or just getting by.

HR transformation is clearly a trend — and an opportunity.

A focus on data-driven workforce planning

I recently listened to Renee Raming, an employment law attorney and HR pro with an appetite for attacking change, talk about the evolving role of human resources. After our presentations at HR Connection, I had the opportunity to learn a little more about her perspective.

She shared her story about how data-driven workforce planning led to improved business performance for The Mosaic Company. The Mosaic senior leadership was becoming acutely aware of the pressing need to hire the right people at the right time to execute on their long-range business strategy, but they didn’t have a good handle on how to move forward and make workforce planning a reality.

Renee led the charge to build a workforce planning process. She did the industry research on best practices, met with a number of management consultants, developed a clear process and framework, and involved functional leaders every step of the way.

She piloted the program, proved the business case and delivered a presentation to the board of directors that aligned workforce planning to business results. She has good insight for any HR leader who’s trying to shift into a more strategic role and make a bigger impact on the business.

I asked Renee about what the lessons she’s learned from leading HR teams and what advice she has for HR leadership:

Why does HR struggle to be strategic?

HR leaders want to be included in strategic business decisions. And organizations need a strategic HR function in order to thrive and grow.

But, HR is largely still viewed as an administrative function.

The work of paying people, providing benefits, solving people problems, and staffing is important — and needs to be executed flawlessly. Only once those tactical bases are covered does HR have the opportunity to do more.

That traditional HR work is becoming more complex and maxing out resources. When you factor in constantly changing HR technology that’s designed to make work easier (but in many cases, makes work harder), most HR pros just don’t have the time or bandwidth to expand into a strategic business role.

How can HR change and contribute to business strategy?

Renee sees an opportunity for HR leaders to initiate change instead of simply reacting to the business.

So often, HR leaders are focused on tactical execution. They aren’t involved in creating strategy, so business leaders dictate what they want. Instead of contributing to the conversation and guiding the business, HR reacts, trying to create programs as quickly as possible to meet business needs and demands.

To shift the role, HR has to challenge the business to think differently. Often, functional leaders think they know what they need, but they don’t have the specific expertise that HR does. Set the expectation that HR specialists will be involved in strategy-making from the beginning.

Get your entire HR team engaged in solving business challenges. Instead of appointing a small number of “HR business partners” to act as the liaison between business leaders and the HR team, bring your whole HR team in.

Empower and enable the HR team to develop high-trust relationships with the business and understand critical business challenges. If you expand the team that has access to business information and strategy, you multiply your ability to execute.

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How can HR leaders successfully navigate change?

Customers are changing quickly. Technology is changing quickly. Our workforce is changing quickly.

To navigate all of that change and reinvention, HR leaders have to build good relationships. In Renee’s career, so much of her success has come down to high-value, high-trust relationships. As an HR leader, she got close to the business — and stayed there.

And, she isn’t afraid to take chances, challenge people and push for the programs and initiatives she believes would deliver results. Instead of waiting for direction, she anticipates needs, invites conversations about change and asks hard questions to develop a solid perspective around how HR can help drive results.

The opportunity for HR is changing quickly, and leaders have to take steps to shape how HR is perceived inside organizations. By executing on the fundamentals, establishing credibility and helping functional leaders buy into an evolving role, HR leaders can have a big impact on driving business growth.

To connect with Renee Raming and learn more about her HR consulting work, check her out on LinkedIn.

For more from Ryan Estis, check out the Ryan Estis blog