Why should management and HR make a dramatic shift and change the dynamic of HR as usual? Given the challenges of this prolonged economic downturn and the crucial need to leverage every available brain cell in our organizations how can we not? The landscape around us has changed and we need a different map, or better yet a high tech HR GPS system, because business is heading into uncharted territory.
We believe the basic principles below can become the foundation for that HR GPS system. By applying these simple principles you can transition HR from transactional nuisance to transformational strategic partner within your organization. Why bother? Because people are the foundation of every successful business and HR is about people. That means you need to leverage your people talent the same way you seek to leverage your other business assets.
If you need an HR manager or department that “gets it” then how do you help them get there?
1. Business acumen
HR often begins as an “other duties as assigned” function when organizations begin to grow, tacked onto accounting or some other administrative function within the organization. Frequently HR managers, even those with lots of experience, do not come from the trenches of production, sales or general business management. Before HR can understand and manage your human capital needs there must be a comprehensive understanding of the company, its business, products, customers and the competitive environment in which it operates.
As the team leader you must develop a plan to bring HR fully up to speed on what you do, how you do it and why. Drag them out of the rarified world of handbooks and insurance forms into the trenches where your products or services are conceived and delivered. The nuts and bolts of how to achieve this will be vary depending on your organization but if your want your HR to function as a strategic partner then you need to find or develop HR managers who understand the big picture.
2. Analytical mindset
Everyone knows people are complex and cannot be reduced to charts and numbers. However, HR needs to bring their analytical tools of the trade to the table just as accounting, production and sales must. HR should be expected to understand what the big picture numbers mean and where their information fits within the overall organization to maximize your human capital resources.
Be sure HR metrics are understood and applied. If you want HR to be a credible contributor the management team then HR needs the tools and training to give you more than best guesses about your human capital investment. HR metrics properly analyzed and effectively communicated to key decision makers can improve every critical aspect of your organizational management process.
If you want HR leadership capable of making hard, critical decisions independently, the kind of leadership willing to put their proverbial “ass on the line” then you need to give them a seat at the table and the opportunity to be heard. It also means that as a manager to take a leadership role in changing the perception of HR from the “no sayers” everyone avoids to the “people specialists” within your organization. While it is ultimately up to HR to achieve a favorable reputation within the organization the leadership can set a new tone of respect that creates a more collaborative environment within the management team.
4. It is ok for HR to know what they don’t know
There is no question HR should already “know their stuff” when it comes to the nuts and bolts of technical HR. If HR in your organization has never really had a seat at the table then the transition will mean lots of questions, a shift in organizational dynamics and a learning curve. Create a climate that encourages questions and exploration as HR assumes a new position in your organizational structure and develops confidence and their own voice.
5. See HR as a fully vested member of the management team
Before HR can see themselves in their new role as strategic management partner the entire management team must be on board. That means leadership must clearly establish a climate that says HR is as integral to the organization and its success as production, sales, or any other key management area. Give HR the opportunity to make some substantive contributions to help create a new tone within the organization, HR as fully vested member of the management team.
Our current economic situation with all its complexities and frustrations may offer HR the opportunity to gain the position at the management table we have long claimed we should have. No matter how high tech our HR GPS is we will still face challenges as we create new HR models and opportunities as strategic management partners.