As an HR executive, you know all too well the changing roles, expectations and pressures facing the HR function today. Globalization, growing operational complexities, labor market dynamics and more have all put HR squarely at the forefront of solving organizations' business challenges. In addition, there is sufficient research indicating that executive leadership wants and needs a business partner that adds value to the organization. This elevated role is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, for many HR managers, along with this new career opportunity is an uphill battle to shed the perception as a service center, to find the time and tactics to be more strategic and to have a seat at the c-suite table. If these challenges are painfully familiar to you, it’s time to change things. You can earn a strategic role, but it means thinking and operating differently. Consider the following five strategies if changing your role as HR manager to more of a business partner is on your list of objectives.
1. understand the business inside and out.
Without being well versed in the business at all levels, it will be difficult to convey the business value HR could bring to the table. Therefore, understanding the business strategy across the organization is your first step towards impacting the organization in a meaningful and strategic way.
2. leverage the power of data and technology.
Emerging technologies have made the ability to gather, analyze and apply data much easier than in the past. The information and data you have about talent, the local workforce pool and current trends is knowledge and insight no one else can offer. Analyze turnover trends, compensation levels within the industry and uncover factors that impact employee engagement and job satisfaction. These insights will help you shape new workplace strategies that can directly impact the bottom line. Similarly, new technologies have emerged to automate key processes that can bog down even the best multitasker. Research and invest in technologies that will free you up to focus on more strategic initiatives.
3. think like a business owner – forecast, budget and save.
As you’re keenly aware, the HR function is often seen as a cost-center or an overhead department. That means when the organization is faced with a budget crunch, all the focus turns to cost centers (i.e. HR) to reduce expenses, particularly when they don’t see the value in the programs or initiatives. Get ahead of this situation by identifying ways HR can be a “savings center.” This requires you to present well thought through budgets and forecasting that identifies strategies to reduce costs, and that demonstrate an ROI.
4. remember that talent is your value proposition.
It is well known that organizations that are the best at talent attraction, development, engagement and retention often outperform their peers in terms of sales, revenue growth and investor returns. Talent is your organization’s value proposition and it drives business performance and success. Find ways to connect the value of HR and how the function effectively makes decisions about hiring and performance management, alongside utilizing the best systems and processes to influence business outcomes. HR functions that are primarily administrative will derail your efforts to elevate your role.
5. be your own advocate.
Most business functions market their products or services to customers, yet HR often neglects this important practice. Make sure your “customers” understand your value proposition, practices that directly impact business objectives, and your successes as you achieve them. Lastly, a part of being your own advocate is a willingness to ask if HR is meeting leadership expectations, and be prepared for the answer. If the answer is less than positive, commit to changing that perception.
A seat at the table isn’t just offered, it needs to be earned. Focusing on budgets, data and technology will help you prove that you’re a strategic thinker that belongs at the table. But, remember that alongside these, professional relationships are equally important. Look for opportunities to create relationships with key players in the organization, be a resource to peers and business leaders and integrate yourself so that you’re a key person to each team, department and most importantly, the executive suite.
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