Group Topic – Does HR add value?

Posted: June 26th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Business, HR, Systematic Viewpoints | No Comments »

Thomas has asked us to give our perspective on a Deloitte/Economist survey indicating that a majority of business executives do not see HR as playing a role in business strategy.

No big surprise in my experience. I see a lack of understanding between the HR and business management worlds as articulated by Jason, Evil HR Lady and others. I agree that HR needs to think and speak in business terms. If there’s any comfort in shared pain, it’s not just HR that has this challenge, IT is often feeling disconnected while business management feels that IT just don’t understand what they need. Both functions end up being treated as commodities as a result, boxed in by management’s experience as to where they can extract some value from the functions.

How did this happen? It depends on the culture of an organization. Sometimes it was never there, sometimes it was skewered by solutions that were more painful than the prior methods, where transformation meant laying off generalists and claiming benefits realization on paper, while managers became less effective because they had to get out in the rain and pump their own gas under the banner of self-service.

I find business heads desperately want to understand what motivates their workforces and they tell me they need to be more agile and reactive to changing market and global conditions, only to find that policies are too slow to be changed, data is of poor quality and hard to manipulate, and HRs are simply being reactive. I see examples where workforce planning is at best an annual mechanical exercise, lacking in meaningful business dialogue that could result in partnership.

What’s an HR to do? Get out of your office and understand your business. Know the financials inside out, know what each leader is expected to add to the bottom line. Shadow managers, have long discussions with the business and sector heads. Get in their heads and under their skin. Then decide from there whether you can help them. Demonstrate your value in the P&L language they speak. They’re the bosses, and they won’t give you a seat at the table, it must be earned.