During that last 25 years of HR, one of the big aspects has been, and continues to be that Human Resources wants “a seat at the table,” meaning its leaders are getting invited to major decision-making meetings with a revenue focus. Traditionally, HR leaders are not invited to such meetings, because oftentimes the more senior, bottom-line-focused executives do not think of them as people who add monetary value to the business.
Luckily for all of us, this is starting to evolve. You’re seeing it change at more in forward-thinking places such as Silicon Valley, but smaller upstart companies are coming to scale with HR periodically in one of those “seats at the table.”
But now there’s another problem: people that are interested in, and came up through HR, traditionally don’t have as strong of a business background. They may understand how to balance a budget, but they tend to not be as strong with fiscal responsibility to the business (and Board)… or how to prove their value.
As someone who has their MBA in an HR-focused program and after comparing notes with someone who did a different graduate program focused on HR at a top-three school, graduate learning for HR still isn’t focused on the right things. If we were asked to focus on revenue plays, compound growth, or even statistics and data analysis… everyone would break out in hives.
Point being: often HR people aren’t thinking along the same lines of, or using the same vocabulary as, more conventional business leaders or leaders in different departments.
In 2015, via a SHRM study, there was a 7-percent drop in how other executives viewed the role of HR in their companies. Even as more HR departments want that “seat at the table,” it seems as though HR’s reputation is moving in the wrong direction.
Part of the problem continues to come back to: when HR finally get their “seat,” what value can they add? What should their leaders be doing first to retain said seat?
Use the Vocabulary
Business is all about shared language; that’s actually one of the distinguishing features of silos. If the true decision-makers are using specific financial terms relative to your industry/vertical, learn them. Learn what they mean, how they are analyzed, and how they’d tie back to human capital and personnel.
Educate yourself. If you’re not seen as speaking the same language, it will become in-group versus out-group very quickly.
Find the Revenue Tie-Ins
In decision-making discussions, you need some tie back to the bottom line or ultimately people will tune you out. You can start by implementing these metrics here, here or here.
If HR just comes in discussing mission and vision and core values, or worse employee engagement, you will be ignored by everyone else at the table. You must show why HR is important to the business – and be held accountable to delivering on the same business results that every other department in the organization must deliver on too.
Change Your View on “The Seat”
Getting to the table isn’t so hard these days – not like it was 25 years ago. But once you get to the table, stop seeing it as a special achievement or something you should be forever grateful for.
HR deserves to be part of leading company strategy – don’t let the lack of historical participation ruin your effectiveness in the room. HR may have a reputation for trying to be people pleasers or non-confrontational or worse, the quiet/silent types. Don’t keep perpetuating this stereotype when you’re in the room.
Be the strategic leader you are. SHOW your fellow departments and colleagues just how valuable HR is – then deliver results.