I recently attended a meeting of the Human Resources Association of New York to hear a panel on the topic: “The C-Suite Speaks: An Invitation to Increase Human Resources’ Strategic Partnership.” Moderated by Richard Atkins, Managing Director of Improving Communications, Stella Pappas, EVP and COO of the Institute for Community Living and Phil Brandt, CEO/President of AAIM Employers Association shared their perspectives on what Human Resources should be doing to help the business.
At the Institute for Community Living, Ms. Pappas pointed out that people were their largest asset. They are the ones who deliver on the mission of the organization. “Human Resources needs to understand that mission and become more than a department responsible for process and compliance.” Mr. Brandt agreed, stating that most times he works with owners of organizations rather than those responsible for HR. Many times those individuals are not included in the initial conversations. HR is and/or thought of as a department that functions tactically rather than playing a strategic role in solving the problems faced by the business to make money.
Both Ms. Pappas and Mr. Brandt shared tips on how HR can make the switch from tactical to strategic partner:
- Ask your CEO what they are trying to achieve. It is imperative to link people practices to the organizations strategy. It can be easy to develop the strategy however difficult to deploy it. This is where HR can help.
- Stay in touch with where your company’s industry is headed. If your industry is becoming more computerized, computer skills are key when hiring.
- Take the time to learn the P & L. This is the language the organization’s leaders are using.
- Be more assertive! If HR is not in the boardroom and the CEO is not thinking to invite them, HR needs to speak up in a respectful, value driven way.
- Look for ways to add value. Find out what is keeping your CEO up at night and bring some solutions to the table.
- Be able to debate your position. Know your facts, be prepared and be professional.
- Network with your peers in other departments to understand all areas of the business, not just HR.
Key areas both panelists thought HR leaders should be focused on today included:
- Attracting and Retaining Talent – Use creativity and open discussion. Regularly show people how much you appreciate them; particularly when compensation increases may be limited. If this is the case, be up front and truthful. Educate your employees about why decisions where made.
- Strategic Succession Planning – Don’t just look at the positions that need to be filled. Look at how you will get the organization from where they are today to where they need to be tomorrow. What skills sets will be needed for the future?
- Be the Expert on Health Care Reform – Embrace it!
- Be the Best at Change – HR needs to be the positive leaders of change in their organizations.
- Measure What is Important – Create measures that relate to the P & L and will help you make decisions about what people strategies and tactics will have a bigger impact on the bottom line i.e. Do we need to hire people faster or hire the right people?
The tactical processes of HR are important and the groundwork needed before HR professionals can become strategic. However to be considered true business partners, HR leaders need to move beyond tactics, understand how the business makes money, the specific goals of the business and developaligned people solutions.