Business leaders and HR professionals often have very different mindsets. Business leaders are focused on driving growth and increasing profits while HR professionals are trained to consider the perspectives of compliance, risk, and company culture.
It’s not uncommon for executives to feel like the human resources department slows down their decision-making, when all they want to do is take swift action. To business leaders, HR can feel like a hurdle they have to jump over before crossing the finish line.
As HR Professionals, how to do we communicate our value to business leaders when it doesn’t always feel like they’re on our side? How can we remind them that human resources plays an important role in making the best decisions for the success of the business?
Acknowledge and support their end goal. When communicating what may seem like an opposing viewpoint, it’s important to be intentional about verbally stating your support for the common goal.
For example, if there’s a manager who’d like to terminate an employee for poor work performance, let him know that you’re aligned with him by saying something like, “I understand that you don’t want to continue to have people on your team who are not pulling their weight. This increases the workload for everyone and costs the company money.”
Connect decision-making to tangibles.
It can be hard to look at people matters objectively. Take emotions out of decision-making and replace them with tangible documentation and risk-reducing processes.
In the example, the manager is frustrated with someone who has not been doing his job well. If he’s upset, the manager may say, “I’m tired of this. This employee has to go!” As HR professionals, we know that the decision to terminate an employee should be based on work performance, not emotions.
This is where you can really add value for the manager. Focus the conversation on the appropriate termination process by asking questions like, “Exactly how does this employee know that work performance expectations have not been met?”
Request documented conversations where this feedback was shared with the employee. Explain how this documentation makes the case to terminate the employee stronger and reduces risk for the company.
Leverage opportunities to show HR value.
Help your business leaders see your value by showing your contributions to the common goal.
In our example, the common goal is to have engaged employees who are all contributing to the overall success of the company. Remind the manager about the HR processes and best practices that you have in place to support this goal, such as training plans, performance reviews, etc.
Proper documentation helps support the fact that this employee was trained on how to do the job and was given feedback about his performance, shifting the accountability to perform the job effectively to the employee.
Remember the big picture.
Again, business leaders and human resources have the same goal – to have a successful company where all stakeholders win: business owners, employees and customers.
In the example of the underperforming employee, support the final decision to terminate by well-documented through-processes in each department.
The same techniques should be used when updating a compensation plan, expanding a department, or even launching a new product. These decisions will ultimately affect employees which means HR needs to be involved.
Some questions HR professionals typically ask before making a big decision include:
- “Is this practice legal?”
- “If it doesn’t go as planned, what is the exposure for the company?”
- “How does this decision reflect on the company’s reputation”
- “How will employees feel about this?”
- “Will it motivate or demotivate the team?”
Welcome the challenge.
Acknowledge that we all look at the world through different lenses. Varying viewpoints actually prepare you for obstacles that you wouldn’t otherwise see, and that makes your business stronger.
Though executives and HR professionals don’t always share the same point of view, they do share the common goal of a successful business. To promote growth, reduce liability risk and improve the company culture, human resources should be positioned as a valuable part of the decision-making team.