As I look at HR trainings being offered this fall, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern emerging. Many programs being offered by my local SHRM chapter and other organizations are centered on opportunities for HR professionals to become more involved and aligned with the businesses they support.
Further promoting this concept is a series of articles I recently read in the July-August 2015 edition of the Harvard Business Review under the cover title, “It’s Time to Blow Up HR.” Peter Cappelli’s article, “Why We Love to Hate HR… and What HR Can Do About It” walks through historical challenges in the U.S. that shaped the HR profession along the way.
According to Cappelli, the HR field is bombarded with criticism for focusing too much on administrative requirements, being the enforcer of rules and typically lacking organizational vision and insight.
These criticisms aren’t new. As someone who’s worked in the HR industry for the past several decades, I’ve heard complaints from managers and employees inside and outside of HR.
Cappelli’s article encourages HR professionals to rethink their approach to leading their departments. He urges them to use their human capital expertise to help their organization’s get ahead of market shifts they see coming down the road. Rather than reacting to the quickly changing marketplace, they should be proactive. Taking these steps will go a long way in aligning the HR department with the organizations’ business goals and objectives, and reset the perception as being a strategic asset. Below are a few basic yet powerful recommendations offered by Cappelli that HR leaders should consider:
Set the agenda. Many CEOs and other operating executives are not experts on workplace issues. HR leaders must show why the issues they address matter to the business and that they have a sensible way to manage them, including providing supporting evidence. It’s an opportunity for HR leaders to show these executives why they should care about these issues by articulating a point of view on every people-related topic relevant to the business (i.e., layoffs, recruiting, flexible work arrangements, performance management, etc.).
Focus on issues that matter in the here and now. HR should craft company-specific (and industry-specific) policies and initiatives that respond to today’s organizational challenges, employee interests and changing business demands. It’s important to understand “what works when and where” and that there is no “one size fits all” solution. Look more closely at the environment in which the organization operates, and continually identify new challenges and design tools to meet them.
Acquire business knowledge. Be analytical. Look at things from many perspectives. Help make sense of all the employee data in order to get the most from your human capital (i.e., predict good hires, create project teams, minimize healthcare costs, and identify top performers).
Highlight financial benefits. Many HR leaders do not calculate Return-On-Investment (ROI), which feeds into business leaders’ view of HR as a cost center. Use the internal systems to review data on turnover, productivity, and other factors that suggest which talent development programs merit investment.
Walk away from time wasters. Do your research and spend time on efforts that HR can measure and enforce. Don’t hesitate to change the way HR business is done if it doesn’t meet your organizational business needs.
By taking many of these steps, HR can become a strategic advisor to your organization and re-imagine human capital much more broadly. I encourage you to continue to ask the questions “why,” “what,” and “how,” allowing your department to stay actively involved in your organizational business. By making evidence-based recommendations for what matters and adjust (and eliminate) practices to meet ever-changing business needs, you will ensure that you add value to your organization, and always have a place at the proverbial table!