HR Hero Line

Exploring how top management can get the most out of HR

Nobody likes the idea of being exploited. Such a notion conjures up feelings of being abused and unfairly taken advantage of. But turn the notion around. What serious human resources professionals wouldn’t welcome working for an organization that fully “exploits” their talents and skills? 

HR pros have long advocated taking a larger role as a way to increase business success. But perception remains a stubborn impediment. A May 12 article on the BBC Capital website points out that frustrated managers often try to exclude HR whenever possible. “The phrase ‘human resources’ has become synonymous with the idea of needless corporate policies that get in the way of growth,” the article states.

The problem goes beyond U.S. borders, according to a professional who teaches at the School of Business and Management of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She was quoted as saying negative attitudes about HR are prevalent among her students, but those who “reach out to HR to seek ideas” put themselves in a position where they “start to see the value in HR instead of just thinking of how they get in the way.”

“Seat at the table”
Andrew Rodman, an attorney with Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A. in Miami, Florida, agrees that organizations are enhanced when management exploits the abilities of HR. “If you analyze any successful business of mid-to-large size, you’ll inevitably find one thing in common—they all have a strong management team,” he says, “And, frequently, an HR professional has a ‘seat at the table’ on that management team.”

If top managers see HR as the department that just shoots down initiatives, they should look again, Rodman says. They should look to HR as a “business-minded adviser who is there to educate and advise the management team about risks associated with policy initiatives,” he says.

“A seasoned HR professional may be able to tweak a potentially problematic initiative to eliminate or decrease risk without jeopardizing or detracting from the overriding business objective,” Rodman says, adding that a management team that views HR as an impediment to business growth may not understand the benefits HR brings to the table.

“And if the HR professional does, in fact, ‘shoot down’ proposals on a regular basis, then maybe, just maybe, that’s because the proposals are illegal or may detrimentally impact employee morale, which, in turn, may negatively impact the bottom line,” Rodman says.

Makeover needed?
Finding ways to exploit (in a good way) HR’s talents and skills has long been on HR’s and top management’s radar. The Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report from Deloitte Consulting LLP calls for major change in the HR function. “HR needs an extreme makeover driven by the need to deliver greater business impact and drive HR and business innovation,” the report states.

The report, which was based on surveys and interviews with more than 3,300 business and HR leaders from 106 countries, says HR is at a crossroads. “Once designated primarily as a compliance function, today’s HR organization must be agile, business-integrated, data-driven, and deeply skilled in attracting, retaining, and developing talent,” according to the report.

The Deloitte report makes suggestions on how organizations can start to better utilize HR. It urges organizations to:

  • Design the HR organization “with a focus on consulting and service delivery, not just efficiency of administration.”
  • Embed HR specialists into the business rather than locating them in central teams. “Recruitment, development, employee relations, and coaching are all strategic programs that should be centrally coordinated but locally implemented,” the report suggests.
  • Make HR a talent and leadership magnet. The report urges rotating high performers from other departments into HR “to create a magnet for strong leaders.”
  • Invest in HR development and skills since HR professionals at all levels need continuous professional development.

New era?
Although the Deloitte report notes significant deficiencies, other research sees progress for HR. In July, CareerBuilder released a report on a new survey of U.S. CEOs that shows an increasing reliance on HR leaders.

“HR is the new frontier for data science applications in business,” Matt Ferguson, CareerBuilder CEO and coauthor of The Talent Equation, said when releasing the report. “In our study, CEOs acknowledge that the recruitment landscape is changing and the need for their HR teams to come forward with data-driven, competitive approaches and efficient technologies is more critical than ever.

“HR leaders are becoming more influential members of the executive team,” Ferguson says. “CEOs are looking for HR to be just as data-savvy and digitally-savvy as other areas of the company, and take quick, measurable actions that move the business towards its goals.”

The “post-recession landscape” is credited for getting management to take HR more seriously, according to CareerBuilder. In the new business climate, management faces more competition for skilled talent along with dwindling labor pools and calls for higher compensation. Those realities usher in a new recruiting era in which 90 percent of the CEOs in the study say it is important that HR leaders be proficient in workforce analytics.

The survey also shows that top management wants to count on HR teams to develop a more efficient recruitment process that provides for a better candidate experience. And the survey shows a willingness on the part of management to give HR a bigger role in the organization.

Sixty-five percent of the CEOs surveyed said that post-recession, HR opinions carry greater weight. Seventy-three percent said their HR leader has provided data that they have incorporated into their business strategy.

Business leaders in the survey indicated that HR executives can have broader influence by:

  • Providing actionable talent data and other research to help devise strategies to meet larger business goals.
  • Showing ways to increase efficiencies or cut costs by better using the company’s human capital.
  • Knowing not just what the company does but also how everything works.
  • Proactively working with other leaders to help solve business problems.