By Kay Chouhan, Director of Kinnect Personnel
It seems to me that HR has an inferiority problem. One of the obstacles I come across when getting senior roles signed off is that the HR department I'm dealing with has to get approval at board level. And while a lot of the HR directors I deal with do sit on the board at their companies, there is also a good number that don't, yet who spend a lot of time and energy wishing they had a seat at the table.
There's conflicting research about whether HR is valued at board level or not. On the one hand, a survey by Lancaster University Management School last year found that 87% of HR directors have a place on their company's executive management committee, driven by the need for businesses to focus on good hiring and engagement during the economic downturn.
Yet a more recent report from KPMG describes HR as running a risk of becoming "non-essential department" unless it can meet the challenges of today's business environment. It even went so far as suggest the function had "wasted the past 20 years" and failed to truly demonstrate its business value. In my book, the best way you can demonstrate your value to the company is by getting the basics right but also showing an understanding of how the wider business works.
The HR directors I work with who really 'get it' understand exactly what they need from the roles I'm sourcing for them, and how they want the people they hire to contribute to the business. A lot of them have spent time in other areas of the business, rather than locking themselves away in a bubble worrying about the price of agency workers or what their boss really thinks of them.
In fact, one client I work closely with said that being on the board was a great goal to have, but should not be the be-all and end-all of your career. "Yes, if you sit on the board you have the CEO's ear and you gain a much greater understanding of the wider business. But that doesn't mean you can't make a difference if you don't," she told me. One of the problems, I think, is that too many chief executives view HR as an administrative department - the one that sorts out the payroll, makes sure everyone is health and safety-compliant and that the company doesn't break the law. Yet HR professionals are in an enviable position where they can really make a difference - by making sure they recruit the right talent for the business, and engaging those recruits to make sure they make a commercial difference.
But until that happens, the biggest contribution HR can make is to show that it understands where the business stands commercially and considers the role of staff in moving it forward. Make that contribution, and if you're not on the board already, that may be about to change.
Sigh. When are HR people going to realise they are one of the four key parts of a business strategy and a driver in two others. Hr people should be the CEOs but settle for the role of administrator
Look, any organisation is ran by people for people with people, so as people are human resources (last time I looked) HR should be at the centre. Accountants do not define themselves by their ability to do payroll (in fact they dump this role on HR) they say they provide financial strategic direction. Well last time I looked I had legs and my money did not.
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