As people professionals, much of our work is reliant on the input and agreement of organisational decision makers. Yet when only three FTSE100 companies have HR professionals on the board, we are woefully underrepresented at the ‘top table’.
With so much out of our control, how can we ensure our contribution is both considered and seen for what it is - absolutely flipping crucial? Sometimes we all need a reminder of why we’re important and what we need to do to stay that way - so here it is.
Become the authority
Everyone has an opinion, don’t they? People think they can ‘do’ HR - or at least make the big decisions about their employees - because they have managed people / know people / are a person. The truth, as we already know, is that there is a big difference between simply employing people and knowing how to keep them engaged, motivated and productive.
Don’t get stuck going through the motions; show your organisation your expertise and your worth. Read widely about all things ‘people’ and voice your opinions about how internal and external factors might impact employees (and what needs to be done about it). Use your expansive internal network to gather useful information and share what you know with the people who need to hear it. The Finance Director is invited to sit at the top table because they have their eyes on the bottom line, you deserve a seat because you have your finger on the very pulse of the organisation. Never forget it.
Make friends in all places
You have a birds eye view of your organisation and a unique position within it. Only HR has equal access to both the senior management team and the people on the proverbial (or real, depending on where you work) ‘shop floor’. Make the most of your connections to forge strong relationships with people from across the organisation.
Sharing critical intel with senior leaders is just as important as communicating those big ‘top down’ decisions. You are the bridge between each strata of the organisation and this makes you indispensable. And, because you are by definition, a people person, everyone knows they are in good hands.
Bring external input
Imagine knowing how other organisations deliver key messages, organise their teams, engage their employees and take people through change. Oh wait, you do! If you work in HR, chances are you know other people that do too. If you don’t have any kind of HR network yet, then join one - there are plenty on LinkedIn alone.
Organisational politics can make even the best of us become blinkered. Finding out more about the HR practices of comparable companies and taking this information back to the people who need to hear it will earn you a great deal of respect.
Share social proof
Because you work with people it’s not always easy to quantify your worth. No doubt you will have KPIs, ROI and a whole host of other acronyms to work towards but the real proof of your impact will come from the voices of the people you work with. Encourage your internal clients to give you verbal or written feedback and push this as high up the chain as it can go. When you have the support of the people who you work with and for, there can be no argument that the work you do is valuable.
It may sometimes seem that no value is placed on anything that can’t be represented numerically, but this is not really true. Sure, you can’t represent verbal feedback on a spreadsheet, but how could you share it? You might need to create a new procedure or reimagine the monthly one to one with your most senior stakeholder. However you do it, the benefit for everyone should be worth the effort.
Our worth might be linked to the overall success of the organisation but that success will only come if people feel supported, engaged and empowered. This is the work of HR, long may it continue.
Article: ‘HR Underrepresented in FTSE100 boardrooms’ HRMagazine
Blog: ‘How to strengthen HR and manager relationships’ Culture Amp