HR professionals have worked hard to earn their place in strategic discussions. However, they are often viewed as lesser than other departments when it comes to the importance given to their ideas related to company strategy and helping achieve organizational goals.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few tips on how HR managers can have effective conversations with executives, regardless of the topic at hand.
Here are a few ideas:
- When discussing ideas that are being proposed for implementation, be sure to prepare a return on investment (ROI) assessment. The ROI is something executives will likely be quite interested in for any newly proposed program. Understand and be able to demonstrate and explain the value of what is being proposed. Use data, analytics, and visuals if possible.
- Rehearse in advance to reduce your nervousness. Be confident in your approach, and be ready to present your ideas in a concise but complete way. Get to the point quickly, and back it up with facts as needed.
- Be prepared for constructive feedback, though it may feel like criticism. Being ready to take on new ideas or adjustments to ideas can be incredibly useful, as it allows you to present ideas without shutting down when changes are suggested. It also allows those in the C-suite to offer input and feel their own ideas are being taken into account, which can get them on board with proposed changes.
- Help the executive understand how your ideas fit with organizational goals. Be ready with the “30,000-foot view” to show how the topic fits into the organization’s needs and how it will work from a broad perspective. Don’t get bogged down in the details, especially in a first meeting, but be ready with data to back up assertions.
- Present how your ideas are forward-thinking and fit into the organization’s future goals and how they will help to achieve those goals. Show how you’re thinking ahead and preventing problems (read: costs) from occurring. Don’t be afraid to explain how HR has been critical in saving the organization money and helping achieve organizational success.
- Be prepared to answer HR-related questions that may be outside the scope of the current meeting. When your audience is the C-suite, it may be a great opportunity to pursue something on your agenda, but these executives may also have pressing concerns, so they will likely be more receptive if you’ve got answers and can demonstrate competence in other areas at the same time. Be ready with commonly requested reports and stats, even if they aren’t related to the topic.
What other methods have you used to prepare for strategic or other high-level meetings with executives at your organization? What would you add to this list? Conversely, what would you advise against?
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.