August 19, 2015

How can HR have more influence within our business?

If HR wants to have more influence within the business, which it does, then first and foremost, it needs to know the business. It needs to understand business drivers and needs, where the business is heading and how it can help it get there.

This means HR also needs to have a good understanding of the industry their organisation operates in, what the pressures are and what is on the horizon. Business understanding and industry awareness are two critical skills that HR practitioners must possess, but many lack. This is something HR has to remedy if it is to increase its influence within the business.

HR needs to become a strategic business partner, aligning itself with business needs and objectives. Only then will it have the credibility and status required to be an influencer. If HR is to have a seat at the top table then it needs to demonstrate why it should be there and how it can and does impact on organisational performance. At the moment, a lot of business leaders need convincing. Recent research from professional services company, KPMG, found that one in five (21%) of C-suite executives polled in its Global CEO Outlook Survey don’t see any tangible correlations between HR and business outcomes.

In order for HR to be taken seriously by the rest of the business, it has to be a lot more business-savvy. Not only understanding the business, but also talking the talk of business.

Business talk these days is all about data, data and more data. Business is increasingly using analytics to make decisions, analyse results and communicate those results. HR needs to be analytics driven as well.

Need a new performance management system? Provide the data that demonstrates why it is needed, how the new system will impact on the business and what the projected results will be. If current HR practices are having an effect, then get the data on those results and present it to the business in meaningful terms. If HR can demonstrate how it is adding value to an organisation and how it can add further value, that is when the business will sit up and take notice.

It is key that HR has all the data to add credence to what it says and does. HR has long been criticized for being too fluffy, for following fads and for postulating the virtues of learning without being able to demonstrate any results. That doesn’t work any longer. Business leaders are increasingly asking for results, for data, for evidence why they should invest in a new learning piece. Nearly 30% of the KPMG respondents said a lack of skills, resource and experience with analytics within HR was diluting its effectiveness.

HR needs to stop being a bystander and an order taker and get down to business. If it knows what the business needs are, what skills are required and what the gaps are, then it can offer learning that meets those needs. If a function asks for a training package that HR knows won’t meet those needs, then instead of being an order taker it can talk about what alternative training would produce better results.

It is all about thinking strategically, thinking in terms of business objectives and how HR can meet those objectives. If HR can add value in this way, it will automatically have more influence in the business.