HR: Make Some Noise
by Dave Millner
2022 has arrived with yet more challenges on the horizon for the HR community. I was talking to an HR Director last week about the perception people in his organisation had about HR. He said, “if you want to be thanked for what you do at work, don’t go into HR!” He added that people in HR need to “get over the fact that they won’t get a lot of recognition and if they think that they are going to be thrown compliments for their work in HR then they should get out of the function now.” He was inferring to the need for increased tenacity and resilience from today’s HR practitioners.
BE NOTICED BEFORE SOMETHING GOES WRONG
HR leaders elsewhere across the world often echo this same sentiment—that their efforts frequently go unnoticed unless something goes wrong. Other head office or corporate services support functions (such as marketing, technology, procurement) are not alone in this regard. If you think about it, when you work in a technology department, the business doesn’t think about what you do until the technology system crashes and people are unable to do their work effectively! There are many elements of HR that are only noticed if things or events go wrong—that’s the reality!
So why is that? HR needs to start letting people in their organisation know what they are doing and how they impact the bottom line. If an HR function can’t demonstrate this in the current climate, then it’s no surprise that the efforts of HR will be forgotten. Start your influence process by understanding the key individuals you are trying to influence.
START WITH THE CEO
Start with the CEO and the senior management team. They didn’t get to the top without being 100 percent focused on what needs to be done and developing their own agenda—if HR is truly going to help them accomplish their goals, HR must first understand what gets their attention. These are usually aspects that impact upon the bottom line, customer experience or fulfil growth opportunities. One key aspect is that HR must start talking the language of the business; that doesn’t mean talking about HR policies and procedures. Start talking about the commercial business challenges (increased profitability, improved efficiency, or service, etc.) and how HR can support these through insights into talent, people capability and through the application of the data it has available. That’s why people analytics remains, and continues to be, so important moving forward.
PROVE HR’S WORTH
To the senior management team, almost every decision requires a “business case,” and because they have learned to think in analytical terms and to quantify everything, HR must do the same. It’s the prime reason so many HR departments are constantly being cut by financially driven initiatives because firstly HR does not “show off what it has done.” Also, HR functions often fail to provide quantifiable proof of the ‘added value’ it can provide in a manner and language the senior management team understands. Namely, financially based savings and income benefits! We understand ‘HR speak’ but our clients probably don’t to the same extent, so we need to change our behaviour to get that crucial buy in.
There are many HR professionals who hate the idea of self-promotion. The reality is that all support services and professionals need to be on the front foot and say, “look what we have done for your business. You now have a competitive advantage because of the clever stuff we have done.”
IT’S TIME TO MAKE SOME NOISE
I’m not saying sound HR thinking and practices aren’t valued, but the time has come for HR to confidently make some noise—what harm can it do? If you are afraid that it will place the focus upon you and your function, perhaps “tomorrow’s HR” isn’t for you because the scrutiny and commercial rigor has only just begun. It’s about changing the perceptions that people have of HR and that starts with your own behaviour and mind-set change.