The function of HR is often undervalued and misunderstood. HR? They deal with dress codes, training packets, and stuff like that, right? Short-sighted HR workers stick to such “stuff.” On the other hand, HR pros master and manage how people issues affect business. They build, develop and retain a workforce that drives a company’s success.

In the latter sense, HR is an extremely powerful, influential and instrumental part of any business if properly managed. Yet many HR professionals wait for permission to innovate and develop business solutions. Well, it’s time to flex some HR muscle! 

The stark reality is that you can’t grow a business without the right people in the right place at the right time. The secret to instrumental and really effective HR is taking the offensive to make sure this happens.

Think Like a Business Leader – This is hard for many HR leaders!

It’s easy to land on the HR treadmill of day-to-day office procedures, compliance issues and policy creation and enforcement. While your company CEO and business leaders appreciate this effort, they want you to think more like them. Executives deal with a higher-level of uncertainty on a daily basis. Think BIG PICTURE: over-arching business goals and concerns. To understand this, you need to ask the tough questions:

  • What differentiates us from our competitors?
  • What talent do our top competitors have that we should target?
  • What is the biggest opportunity our company is targeting right now?
  • What will we be targeting tomorrow?
  • What new talent skills are needed to successfully enter new markets?
  • What talent within our business is at-risk?
  • What happens to our business if that at-risk talent is gone within six months?
  • Why are we putting our talent at risk?

Determining the answers to these questions will improve the way you execute HR decisions and make your department more valuable to the entire company.

Get to Know Business Ops

When HR shows up on the scene it usually causes eye-rolls or suspicions. What is HR doing here? Has another change been made to the employee handbook? Are we changing benefits? Are we laying people off? Not this time. It’s essential for HR to really understand what the company does and how it operates. The best way to do that is to get out in the field and get your hands dirty.

Become a regular part of Business Operations. Regularly attend meetings. Initiate conversations. Get in the trenches with your Operations partners to understand who they are, what they do, and the real value they bring to the organization. If you really understand the issues each of the business groups have first hand, you’ll be able to structure and successfully execute more effective HR and talent programs. Both senior executives and Operations will be more receptive to your solutions because they’ll know you understand their challenges first hand.

For example, one HR director for a healthcare system opted to attend bi-weekly operations meetings for nursing staff. Working with the directors of nursing, he was able to pinpoint specific department challenges, such as the inability to adequately staff midnights on weekends and the resulting budget disruptions from using more contract employment. Operations and HR were than able to collaboratively develop strategies for attracting the much-needed midnight staff members.

Talk Shop Like Ops

Doing things differently will always result in a little push-back. But a little push-back is not a dead end. Operations get this. Why not HR?

Ever notice how Operations has no problem asking for a new machine if it will improve business performance? Initial costs may be involved, but the projected return outweighs those expenses. Only when the machine arrives, it has a few kinks. So the company sees a return on its investment in 18 months instead of the expected 12. In the long run, Operations did what was right for the business.

Are people any less important than machines? In today’s day-and-age, when intellectual capital is a company’s greatest asset, absolutely not! If HR sees a need to invest in people, don’t hesitate to ask and stand by your recommendations in the long-run. Just be prepared to demonstrate the need and ROI.

Go out and prove the added value of HR fieldwork and tools. Show how your talent mix compares to that of major competitors. If you see competitors are dramatically adding to a department, that usually means a competitive push is coming soon. Don’t let your company get behind.

Be proactive. Be prepared. Get off the treadmill and start driving real, sustainable change in your organization. HR? They innovate and stuff like that, right?