HR professionals are constantly being asked to prove their business acumen, their financial knowledge, their contribution to the bottom line. However, sometimes even when they meet those goal lines it's not quite enough for the other business leaders.
"I have often been referred to as the non traditional HR person with more than 20 years of my career spent in the 'business'. Making the transition to HR allowed me to realize a goal set some 20 years ago," HRM reader Janine writes. "Imagine my surprise when in a management meeting where I questioned some financials that were not adding up and my CEO loudly announced 'and that's from the HR person'. Of course it was, just because I am in HR does not mean I don't understand business.
Janine said it was not only HR people sometimes holding the profession back, but also the business leaders.
What can HR do when their peers consistently underestimate and undermine their place at the table?
Establishing and maintaining credibility and value is an ongoing process, said Susan Davies, Director of Human Resources, Administration and Customer Service at TNT.
“If you really want to develop influence, you’ve got to have credibility and if you want a seat at the boardroom table you have got to be adding value. This means having a deeper understanding of the business itself – how it operates, what customers are expecting, sustained profitability – and then you need to deliver around these three imperatives,” she said.
“If you are doing activities that are not linked to at least one of these things, you are probably wasting time and money.”
Dealing with politics in the workplace is unavoidable, she added, but you can attempt to handle issues of ego and politics before they impact on your ability to influence and effect change.
In these situations, Davies suggested HR professionals do the following.
- Encourage honesty: “I believe in straight talking, however it’s important to understand when you can apply that approach and when you can’t. Everyone has their 'hot buttons'… being open and honest will encourage others to get to the bottom of the issue quickly.”
- Focus on facts: “I am very focused on facts and I always try and steer discussions away from emotions, which generally gets you to the ‘real story’ behind a conflict or an issue.”
- Be solutions-oriented: “I am a great believer in not always bringing issues to the table, but bringing solutions. Everyone should be accountable; all care and no accountability is a bad approach.”