HR Management

That Elusive Seat at the Executive Table: Here’s How to Get It

It’s National Boss’s Day. Have you sent your boss a card? Perhaps it should carry this message from Jack Welch … that HR needs to be a more prominent part of your organization.

If you think that HR should be as important a function at your company as finance, marketing, or production, and that HR people should therefore have a “a seat at the senior management table,” you’re in good company. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, and considered one of the best executives ever, thinks so, too.

Writing in his NY Times column, “Winning,” he declares that “HR should be every company’s “killer app.” “What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted, or moved out the door?” he asks.

As to why that’s not the case at so many companies, Welch notes that too many HR departments are either “cloak and dagger societies,” playing politics behind the scenes, or “health and happiness sideshows,” having no real part in the decision-making.

“What’s needed,” he says, “are people who are one part pastor … and one part parent.” Such individuals can hear sins without judging and hold them in confidence, but also give firm advice.

Add knowledge of the company’s workings, and HR people can tell who would fit best in each position, writes Welch. They also have the power to create systems to motivate and keep the best workers.

With HR capable of all this, Welch concludes, “Leaders need to let HR do its real job: Elevate people management to the same level of professionalism and integrity as financial management.”

But How Do You Sell It to Management?

Where Welch stops is in telling HR people how to sell these ideas to Management. That’s where Jodie-Beth Galos of Galos & Associates, LLC, and Karen Ruef of the Lincoln Financial Group pick things up. Speaking at a recent SHRM conference, they suggested promoting your abilities through a classic consultative sales process of matching what you’ve got to what your “customer” needs.

First step is to ask questions or even conduct an audit to determine what issues the company needs to address, and to determine its values. Next, come up with your solutions and the steps needed to implement them, and finally, communicate your thoughts to the executive team.

The way you communicate — your sales approach—is going to depend on the personality type of your audience, and your style as well, say Galos and Ruef.

–The “supportive, cooperative” approach requires the HR professional to communicate with the executive team using a calm demeanor, asking for results rather than demanding them.

–The “expressive, relationship” approach is one in which the HR professional tells the executive team the issue and proposed solution in an “expressive, accepting manner.”

–The “analytical, deliberative” approach asks the executive team for results in a “controlled, logical manner,” with a decision after they have all the facts.

In the “direct, results-oriented approach,” the HR professional tells the team the plan in a “strong, direct manner,” and expects a quick decision “based upon key data.”

Pick the approach that works best, say Galos and Ruef, tailor your ideas to the company’s needs, and pack your message with facts and good ideas. Then, next National Boss’s Day, you may be receiving the cards and not just sending them.

This article incorporated reporting by BLR Managing Editor Susan Prince, J.D.