CHROs and emerging HR executives must be included along with that of their C-level counterparts to make others see them as equal. First, by adopting HR best practices and then by proactively asserting expertise in business-critical processes, CHROs will be welcomed at the leadership table. Here are 3 strategies CHROs should follow to help make that happen.
Best Practice 1: Understand the key elements of the overall business. C-level executives (often with the exception of HR) are generally fully informed and aware of the financial health of the company, potential areas for growth and experimentation, competition and overall industry challenges. Most CXOs possess extensive knowledge of the products or services the company offers. A successful CHRO will be both knowledgeable and conversant in all of these same areas. He or she should know the key elements of each of the other executives’ areas, know what they mean and how they are measured and, most importantly, understand how human capital challenges impact each of these areas and be able to discuss these challenges and potential solutions from a functional and business perspective.
Best Practice 2: Be prepared to discuss how HR impacts bottom-line metrics. The effective CHRO understands the bottom line and works to meet the business objectives and goals of the organization. It is imperative to know if the business is profitable and, if so, how profitable it is. If not, know the amount of the loss, what is contributing to it and what the mitigation plans are. The best CHROs proactively address the impact of the cost of human capital on the bottom line and develop flexible strategies for addressing these costs so that they better fit within the company’s budget and business model.
Best Practice 3: Commit to continuous learning, but make the concept bigger than words. Just as industry practices change, the HR field is always evolving, as well. CHROs should be in tune to all factors impacting the business—the sector, the global trends, innovation—and the future of the organization’s growth, as well as to trends within the human capital market. Be continuously asking questions and seeking solutions: Where is the future leading us? How do we get there while remaining healthy, vital and relevant? What is the impact of HR upon the organization as a whole? What kind of talent is needed to survive and thrive in a more complex and competitive future landscape and how to we ensure preparedness?
Being a strategic business partner takes work. While HR individuals will certainly need to prove they are worthy of sitting with their fellow executives, the role of CHRO should not be fighting for a chair. There is a difference between being a truly strategic and sought-after HR leader and a personnel manager with a fancy title; however, it takes work and vision. Make sure you’re on the right side of the divide.