Today’s human resources executives know they need to be strategic to add value to the business. But it’s not enough just to gain a seat at the table — you have to be able to positively influence the organisation once you get there.
These three attributes are essential:
How many other executives transition on a moment’s notice from boardroom presentations to union negotiations and then onto suggesting an employee should shower—or at least invest in a good deodorant—all in the same day? A successful HR executive is a skilled communicator who is able to deliver a compelling message at all levels of the organisation, negotiating settlement agreements with departing employees, resolving complaints and defusing conflict. An HR manager’s persuasive, authoritative and no-nonsense communications allow him to represent the business in testimony at employment tribunals or in a presentation to employees regarding TUPE transfers, for example.
At the same time, HR is often the face of the company—one of the first introductions a candidate has to the organisation—and a relatable, welcoming approach can mean the difference between attracting the best candidates, and losing them to an industry competitor.
On the surface, HR continues to fight the perception that the field is all about red tape, bureaucracy, rules and policies. But our approach to technology and social media tells a different story. Although more than 90 percent of sought-after professionals actively use social media, only 10 percent of HR departments have realized the value of related technology for recruitment and outreach efforts, according to 2011 research from HR Magazine. Instead, HR has overwhelmingly focused its efforts on monitoring and enforcing employee’s use of technology.
A 2012 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 40 percent of companies had recently developed a social media policy focusing on codes of conduct and disciplinary consequences. While policies have their place, the successful HR leader understands that fully embracing new technology can provide the company with a significant strategic advantage.
HR information systems to capture employee data and process payroll are commonplace. But the most innovative HR executives use technology for all aspects of the employee lifecycle—including branding, recruitment, applicant trends, engagement and training—and integrate this approach with existing software solutions to streamline and improve company processes.
The successful HR executive knows that in 2012, you need more than policies and people skills to make it in HR. The old mindset—where HR simply had to make sure managers followed the “rules”—doesn’t work in today’s workplace. Instead, the business-savvy HR executive realizes that the company’s existing policies are not a one-size-fits-all solution, and recognizes that innovative, effective operations shouldn’t be constrained to meet policy or system requirements, just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
An effective HR leader is able to develop creative solutions to meet and drive the company’s changing operational needs—and he accomplishes this with in-depth business knowledge, not just calculating the occasional ROI and calling it a relevant contribution. True strategic thinking comes from a comprehensive understanding of operations, knowledge of financial, operational and entrepreneurial practices, and a recognition that HR should support—not dictate—management strategy.
The most effective modern HR leaders will be those who possess—or are willing to learn—these three attributes to take HR from being a regulator of organisational process to a driver of organisational change.