Today’s blog post was inspired by a fantastic article I read recently. The article in question contained insight from a number of HR professionals who had progressed to become CEOs, and the things they learnt along the way.
I will not be alone in feeling tired of the endless debates as to whether or not HR deserves a seat at the boardroom table. People are an organisation’s most important resource. Whoever heads up your HR team is directly responsible for that resource. There is not, therefore, in my mind, any need for debate whatsoever. Of course HR should have a seat at the boardroom table. What is perhaps more open for debate is how HR can truly add value at that table.
The article I’ve referenced above picks up some common themes which can be directly attributed to the corresponding progression the individual in question experienced. However, regardless of whether or not you are intending to progress to CEO level, these are the things all HR professionals need to be focusing on in order to deliver for their business… and contribute at the very highest level.
#1 Know your business
Know your business inside out, and back to front. I have no time whatsoever for the school of thought which has HR teams sitting inside isolated offices, only crossing the threshold to venture out into the heart of their business by exception. More than perhaps any other team within an organisation, we need to know our business, and the teams within that business, like the back of our hand.
Devote time to actively sitting within teams and getting to know the people within those teams. Understand their challenges, their frustrations, their measures of success. The very best HR professionals are well versed in the barriers preventing their teams from achieving… and are fully focused on implementing the people-related measures that remove those barriers, and facilitate success.
#2 Understand your organisational metrics
Each business will have clear measures of success. We have a responsibility to not only know what these measures are, but to understand how we use them. There is no excuse for any department hiding behind waffle. As HR professionals, we need to be able to demonstrate that our interventions are targeted, costed, and delivering to or above the expected level of return on investment.
We also need to be able to understand cross-functional metrics and converse using these as the evidence base for our discussions. Again: no hiding in bunkers. Within our roles we should be able to communicate with finance, sales, technology and operations experts across the organisation, evidencing our understanding of the metrics around which their delivery is structured. It is simply not possible for us to deliver value at Board level without this.
#3 Live and breathe the employee experience
We are in the unique position within HR of having responsibility for what is almost certainly our organisation’s most valuable resource. It is therefore within our gift, more than almost any other Board member, to influence whether or not we achieve our organisational objectives.
Our people deliver our competitive advantage. When we have a team of people who are engaged with our business, we better achieve our goals. We engage people by ensuring we provide a stand out employee experience at each and every stage of the employee journey.
The concept of the employee experience is a relatively new one. Working in HR, we are in the privileged position of being better placed than anyone else in the organisation to educate senior stakeholders on its importance, and drive strategic initiatives designed to maximise its positive impact.
A new era for HR
It is my belief that tackling the employee experience will soon become one of the primary challenges – if not the most critical of all – on most organisations’ strategic agenda. Now, more than ever, boardrooms need HR professionals who are able to take ownership of this.
We are entering a new era for HR. Gone are the days of ‘tea and tissues’; of a function seen merely as a box ticking exercise. The new HR is bright, vibrant, and passionately focused on driving organisational value and delivering upon objectives.
I know which HR I would rather be a part of. How about you?