Tips for HR Leaders aiming for Business Leadership

September 18, 201410:30 am1899 views

HR managers and leaders within organisations seeking to be considered  as equal business partners of their peers and CEO(s), within their organisation must step up to and invest themselves in the business aspect of their role, rather than just sticking to the administrative dimension of HR , according to Jack Bucalo, Independent Human Resources Executive and top contributor in the HR & Talent Management LinkedIn Group.

The following appointments are directly relevant to the success of a firm:

  • VP of Sales
  • VP of Marketing
  • VP of Operations
  • VP of Research & Design

These are  all directly linked to the success of the company. These positions are inherently risk-based by their nature, with career progression and remunerations as a direct outcome of the business performance of the firm. The VP of Human Resources, however, is only indirectly essential to the success of the company. according to Bucalo.

HR professionals need to maintain an nuanced balance between the administrative and business dimensions of their position, given their role in sustaining organisational culture, ensuring the competitive advantage and assuring the viability and growth of the firms human capital. Six specific objectives which HR managers must keep in mind when realigning HR departments to be more business-oriented are:

  1. To improve earnings and increase cash flow
  2. To improve the market share of the firms main product line (e.g. acquiring a business utilising a new technology currently unused by the firm)
  3. To develop ~50 business unit executives possessing sound general management skills and can operate a $50 million business unit
  4. To improve the customer service image of the company in the marketplace
  5. To increase sales revenue for product(s) via introducing new technology
  6. To reduce the time-to-market of product, in order to exceed industry standards

To achieve these objectives, re-examine the management training and development staff, typically individuals who teach leadership and interpersonal skills to middle-level management. Line management doesn’t think highly of such managers, due to their disconnect from corporate profitability and operational environment, which is is the cause of animosity.

Bucalo recommends minimising or transferring people with generalised training backgrounds, replacing them with individuals that have operational and technical backgrounds. Bucalo explains:

Re-align the talent management staff to be more operationally-oriented, rather than the staff being focused on leadership development. To gain the respect and credibility of the CEO and line management, HR leaders must accept the fact that they must earn it. It will not and should not be given to them, even if their job title suggests that it should.

See: Organisational Culture vs Organisational Compliance

An Actionable Implementation

HR representatives can easily manage objective #6 (i.e. reduce the time-to-market of product to exceed current industry standards).

For example, in an engineering firm, if competitors are matching production time or beating a company to market, the solution would be to implement task forces in cooperation with engineering/product development and marketing management with the goal of reengineering the entire design and launch cycle, streamlining the process and synchronising with key quality and manufacturing checkpoints.

The task force should speak to sales about customer desires, then involve engineering. Questions that should be asked at this point are: “Can it be done? Can the design be developed in four weeks? Two weeks?”

This task force then speaks with manufacturing, to identify design problems and develop alternatives. Concurrently, discuss these changes with sales & marketing. The questions for them is “Will this design meet the needs of customers?” HR personnel need to look at the entire production cycle as it currently exists and discover ways to streamline it, which can include completing steps in the process concurrently rather than sequentially.

Including members of the engineering and a member of manufacturing into the task force allows for a holistic appraisal of the situation, as it would allow for the task force to re-engineer the cycle together, with input from all departments.

This is just one example that a CHRO can use their HR knowledge to make a meaningful and positive impact on the company, measurable in terms of profits and success. Most HR leaders don’t invest the time to understand their company’s business objectives and strategic plan goals, focusing on the administrative dimension of HR instead.

To become an equal member of C-level management, HR executives and leaders must utilise their skills and services to assist line managers in achieving their objectives. In turn, this helps the CEO achieve the goals set for the company by the board of directors.

Unless HR leaders take steps to adjust their role within a company and adapt to facilitate positive business outcomes, they’ll be denied their role as equal, value-adding business partners with a strategic role and seen as another layer of administrative bureaucracy; a necessary component that — in excess — can withhold a company from achieving its value.

Credit: Harley, L. (2014) .Very Specific Advice for HR Leaders Who Want To Be Equal Business Partners.  HR & Talent Management; Image Credit: The HR Manager

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