Why it’s crucial HR has the board’s buy in

Nick Bowles
Head of Stakeholder Engagement
APSCo
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We’ve all heard the saying, ‘a company is only as good as its people’ and it’s true. But who is responsible for recruiting, building and maintaining a strong workforce? This lies with HR. In fact, if you look around, what do nearly all successful organisations have in common? A good human resources team. From global companies such as Ford with its innovative HR practices and outstanding training opportunities, to Korn Ferry which is renowned for its consistent practices and having one of the best HR departments in the world. In fact, without a sturdy HR department working on side, businesses wouldn’t be able to source, engage, develop and retain the best talent, and without the right people there is no business.

However despite all the good it brings, it seems frustration around inclusion– or rather lack of – of the HR function in strategic boardroom decisions, still prevails in HR circles today. According to research from HR software technology firm, Namely, only 7% of 1,000 mid-sized firms have a HR executive in the C-suite. And while for years, CEOs and business leaders have potentially got away with viewing HR as an administrative or compliance role, boards are starting to realise is it no longer a back office function and acknowledging the importance it has in not only attracting and retaining the best talent but also the impact that talent has on a company’s bottom line. So what can be done to ensure Human Resources gets a seat at the table?

The answer lies in speaking the language of senior execs which ultimately centres around finance and profit. In essence, HR professionals need to become financially savvy after all, this is essentially the core of an organisation and if anyone, it’s the Financial Director who knows all too well presenting a plan in figures is certain to gain the CEO’s attention. With this in mind, HR leaders need to be fluid and adopt the mindset of a business strategist first, and competent HR professional second when bringing strategies to the board. With KPMG’s Global CEO Outlook survey revealing that growth is a top priority, supporting expansion plans and new developments is where HR leaders have the opportunity to put what they do front and centre. By getting to grips with budgets and the dynamics which leverage business revenue, and utilising this in strategic plans, HR teams will be far more likely to have better communication with the board and have their ideas taken seriously.

Combining soft skills and a sales mentality will help HR leaders stay purpose- focused, understand management’s motivations and achieve crucial buy in. The current job market is no longer child’s play and with competition rife, now more than ever we are seeing specific skill sets and the retention of talent defining financial success for many companies. It’s crucial then, that short term differences between the CEO and HR are addressed quickly to focus on shared business objectives and working cohesively. As Jeremy Phillips-Powell, Group Director of Talent and Organisation effectiveness at the RSA stated, “It’s like the team are out on the pitch kicking the ball around, but HR are still sat in the changing room wondering what the game is and why they haven’t been invited to play.”

Ultimately, the role of HR relies on not only understanding employees and the business, but also being adept at communicating effectively with senior stakeholders. By presenting business plans, challenges and opportunities in term of finance and data, HR leaders can enter a new interfacing realm with executive teams.

 

About Nick Bowles

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