If HR wants to “earn a seat at the table,” it has to justify its worth. For the most part, corporate executives view HR as an administrative function, not a strategic one. In most cases, this view is accurate. However, let’s assume for a moment that you want your HR department to be seen as strategic rather than merely administrative; in other words, HR should or help produce a profit, not just spend money. Here’s what it takes to align the HR function with corporate strategy:
- Realize that how you run the HR function will have a significant impact on the execution of corporate strategy. Jack Welch famously used the HR function to drive profits at GE for many years.
- Recognize that most small to medium-sized businesses don’t have much HR expertise. How many of those folks wearing the HR hat have made the effort to obtain their PHR or SPHR designation — the benchmark of a “serious” HR executive? A company without this expertise would be wise to seek it out, either through a part-time consultant or HR executive.
- Make sure the company is hiring only the best. In each one of Jim Collins’ books (Good to Great, et. al.) he emphasizes the most important function of management is to put the right person on the right seat of the bus. Is this happening at your company? How is HR helping managers hire great employees?
- Focus on boosting employee productivity without increasing the already high level of stress. How do you maintain a corporate culture in the process? In this squeeze economy, everyone is being asked to do more with less. To what degree have you helped the management team generate increased productivity?
- Make sure that the best stay on board. Survey after survey indicates that as the recession eases, more and more employees are looking to move elsewhere. Many companies only have to lose a few critical employees to have a significant bottom-line impact. To what degree are you using available resources to make sure your best and brightest remain?
- Be aware that hiring, productivity, and retention are the greatest concerns of many HR professionals and CEOs I’ve spoken to because they flow through directly to the bottom line. Employers also tend to be concerned about training initiatives (especially low-cost ones), teamwork, motivation, letting go of poor performers, and compliance concerns. How is HR helping you meet these goals more effectively than the competition?
- Finally, don’t forget the never-ending challenge of benefits management. How can you help reduce the overall cost of employee benefits, while improving employee health?
Of course, your company might have specific strategic objectives of greater importance. If so, work on those first. HR That Works Members should use the Strategic HR Tools area of the Web site to make sure that HR gets a seat on the bus.