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HR Leaders in the past might have felt like the wedding guest stuck at the table in the back by the banquet kitchen door or the “adult” assigned to the “kid’s table” at Thanksgiving – sure, you were in the room, but you might have felt more like an afterthought than a focal point.

In today’s business world, however, senior HR can (and should!) play a pivotal role in shaping an organization’s success.

Gone are the days when HR was solely seen as a support function – HR leaders can elevate their position within the company and become strategic partners in driving business transformation.

“One often overlooked aspect of the senior HR role is the question of how to elevate the position to be on par with leadership and equivalently tasked with transforming the business,” wrote Ani Banerjee, Chief HR Officer for KnowBe4, security awareness training and simulated phishing platform provider. “As a self-described sector head, if I’m looking at my peer group, how am I understanding their business challenges? How do I get a seat at the table and contribute to what they’re trying to accomplish?”

To achieve this, HR leaders must align their goals and actions with broader organizational objectives, working closely with top leadership to contribute to the company’s growth and success.

Examining the “Why” Behind Human Resources

Banerjee in The SHRM Blog article explains it is helpful to start with the “why” behind human resources.

He says to think beyond the day-to-day tasks and administrative functions of HR and look at the “why” behind HR. For him, the existential answers are:

  • HR exists to accelerate their client’s business goals.
  • HR is responsible for making sure they partner with leadership to help solve business challenges.
  • HR is tasked with leading employees.
  • HR is instrumental in changing the organizational culture.
  • HR must make sure that workers are engaged and appropriately trained.

“It’s important for HR leaders to build the relationships of trust with their business clients and understand the real root causes of what they’re trying to accomplish,” writes Banerjee. “Real business partnering is structured from the outside in, where we start foremost by aligning with the organization’s goals and objectives.”

Think of it as a tug-a-war and HR can help the team succeed – but only if they firmly have a grasp on the rope and are pulling in the right direction.

HR Leaders Can Provide Value to Their Company with Strategic Thinking

When senior HR leaders see their function as part of an overall organizational effort – and not simply providing services in a vacuum – then they can provide value to their company and become integral to the business transformation.

Here are some strategies HR can employ to become essential members of the leadership team that guides your company to success:

  • Strategic Alignment: To become strategic partners in business transformation, HR leaders must first align their department’s goals and initiatives with the overarching business strategy. This alignment ensures that HR activities, such as recruitment, talent development, and performance management, directly contribute to achieving the company’s objectives. Collaborate with other business leaders to understand their needs and how HR can support them in reaching their goals.

Banerjee says: “HR leaders need to demand they are part of their organization’s management team and its strategic planning efforts.”

  • Stay Informed and Innovative: The business landscape is constantly evolving, with new trends and technologies emerging regularly. HR leaders must stay informed about industry best practices, market trends, and emerging technologies to remain relevant. Attend conferences, workshops, and webinars, and encourage your team to do the same. Being well-informed allows HR leaders to make informed decisions and propose innovative solutions to business challenges.

Banerjee says: “It’s important for HR leaders to continually monitor what’s happening internally and externally and to remain alert to how these shifts can impact the business.”

  • Develop a Data-Driven Approach: Data is a powerful tool for HR leaders looking to transform their organizations. Implementing data analytics and HR metrics can help you gain insights into employee performance, turnover rates, recruitment effectiveness, and more. Use this data to make data-backed decisions and provide actionable recommendations to leadership. By demonstrating the impact of HR initiatives through data, you’ll gain credibility as a strategic partner.

Banerjee says: “With today’s technology, HR leaders have the opportunity to use data to make accurate predictions related to turnover risk, to identify employees with the potential to move into higher-level positions, to improve the employee experience, and more.”

  • Focus on Talent Development: A crucial aspect of business transformation is ensuring that your organization has the right talent in place. HR leaders can drive this transformation by emphasizing talent development and succession planning. Identify high-potential employees and create tailored development plans to groom them for leadership roles. This proactive approach ensures a pipeline of capable leaders who can steer the company toward its strategic goals.
  • Foster Employee Engagement: Engaged employees are more productive, innovative, and committed to their organization’s success. HR leaders can enhance their strategic position by developing and implementing employee engagement strategies. Conduct regular surveys to gauge employee satisfaction, identify areas for improvement, and take action to address concerns. Engaged employees are more likely to align with the company’s vision and contribute to its transformation journey.
  • Bang the HR Drum: It’s not just enough for HR to make an impact but the department should communicate how HR-related efforts are contributing to the overall well-being of the company. Monitoring, measuring, and communicating HR-related activities to the other departments and their leaders will ensure that HR is appreciated appropriately for its efforts.

Banerjee says: “HR leaders can’t just work quietly behind the scenes. They need to ensure that leaders know the valuable work they do contributing to the bottom line.”

HR leaders have a unique opportunity to become catalysts for business transformation. By aligning HR strategies with the broader organizational goals, staying informed and innovative, adopting a data-driven approach, focusing on talent development, and fostering employee engagement, HR leaders can elevate their position within the company.

This will not happen, however, without a concerted effort.

“For HR leadership to succeed, spend time with your key business counterparts having empathy for what’s transpiring in the organization. Know the key issues driving the C-suite, communicate regularly and build those relationships. Discuss strategy, leadership, HR delivery, and how we show up as a team and work together as thought partners,” concluded Banerjee.

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