Despite every HR professional being able to rattle off examples of how good HR can assist in reducing expenses, very few seem able to measure and report how their function adds tangible value to a business. Facts, figures and profit is the language of key decision makers and, without the ability to speak this language, HR is often perceived as an overhead department failing to contribute to the bottom line.
Adding to this perception is the command and control approach often taken by HR professionals. Writing for the Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2014/11/what-hr-needs-to-do-to-get-a-seat-at-the-table, Carol Anderson notes “…HR doesn’t have its act together. It doesn’t ask good business questions, and it tells business leaders what they must do, which leads to business leaders doing work because they have to, not because they see the value.”
As a HR professional, I know it can be tough to validate your value when you don’t directly bring in revenue. Takes no rocket scientist to recognise that directing people to do things in which they see no value-and which generally add to their primary workload-may also lead to a less than positive impression of HR as a value-add function.
I’m a strong believer that HR doesn’t need to demand a seat at the executive table. To me, the demand aspect reminds me of a petulant child not getting their own way. Demonstrating excellence in a support function, not one focused on control, will lead to an invitation. It might mean HR being seen to step outside their comfort zone: getting out from behind your desk, talking with their people who bring in the revenue- those facing customers on a daily basis and those who directly support the front line team-finding out what they really need and designing practical HR systems to help people achieve their objectives; not roadblock them. Too simplistic? I wonder.
Done well, HR offers many benefits to a business:
Good HR also involves taking time to educate stakeholders what HR can and cannot do…what tangibles can be measured and what other benefits (such as improved workplace culture) may be more of a “gut feeling” when comparing yesterday against today.
A seat at the executive table should not simply be a right. If you demand a seat at any table-real or metaphorical-you may receive an invitation once but, unless you add value in some way, your first invitation may be your last. Your hosts might also go as far as moving the table. Good luck finding your seat then.
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