How HR Can Better Contribute to the Business

A cartoon businessman smiles as he is surrounded by cartoon-style employees

HR departments are coming to realize what an important role they can potentially play in today’s businesses. Traditionally they operated more like a service provider to their company and had not yet earned the right to sit at the executive table when critical corporate-level strategies, decisions and investments were being made. They were seen to live more on the implementation and soft-side of the company; and, frankly, most were content there.

Nowadays, savvy HR folks are recognizing that they not only have a lot to offer, but also they are beginning to understand what it takes to get the attention of executives. Progressive HR managers are learning to speak the language of executives in terms of business results and outcomes and to articulate what they can contribute around a critical lever for success in today’s competitive business environment – talent management. We define talent management as the workforce that leaders build and manage to create a unique advantage their competitors cannot replicate.  At a minimum, HR’s role should be helping their company to better attract, engage, develop and retain top talent that will thrive in their corporate culture and best execute the business strategy.

It becomes HR’s responsibility to ensure that their company has the human capital it needs to compete in the current environment, quickly adapt to changing requirements, and be ready for the challenges of the future. In essence, when HR can “up their game” to contribute meaningfully to the business units they support, they become a true partner rather than simply a reactive service provider. They can have a measurable impact on operational and financial performance by seeing that the right talent is in place now and in the future.

Talent management involves three main buckets of information that HR can analyze to supply the numbers the C-suite needs to make sound decisions regarding their people. The quality of the data is critical – it needs to be reliable, accurate, rich and detailed. It should be analyzed in a way that supports business strategies and it should be shared across the board with those who need the results in order to make smart decisions.

  1. How many?
    HR needs to be sure that they have the right folks in the right roles and in the right numbers.
  2. How much?
    HR needs to report current costs and accurately forecast future workforce and compensation investments that will keep top talent in place.
  3. How good?
    Here is where HR needs to identify the critical success metrics and competencies needed in each job category and to know how well employees are performing against the standards management sets. This is a measure of performance. What is needed to improve performance? What kind of development would ensure that employees have the right skills just when or before they are needed? And, when new employees are needed, where can they be found, brought aboard quickly and ramped up to productivity as soon as possible? Here, too, is where HR needs to assess the degree of employee engagement to keep turnover low and high performers happy, challenged and productive.

Above all, if HR intends to take on a more strategic role, they need to be more proactive around change. With a clear understanding of the company’s overall strategy, HR must support that strategy through the workforce, be agile enough to adapt as needed, and provide the metrics of progress toward improved performance company-wide.

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