For the last couple of decades, Human Resources has been singing the song about being a business partner. I question whether we are using the right lyrics. Often it is difficult to translate how HR activity affects the income statement or the balance sheet. As a result, HR may appear to talk in platitudes versus communicating in the language of business. It does not have to be that way.
Recently I had a conversation with the CEO of a relatively new client for whom we are providing Fractional Human Resources support. The purpose of my visit was to crystallize thoughts on a proposed 2018 Human Resources Plan and to ensure I was aligned with the executives’ thoughts and direction. They were surprised at the approach I used in the meeting.
The meeting agenda included:
- Confirming the organization’s immediate and longer-term goals and objectives.
- Reviewing a SWOT analysis of the organization’s human capital situation and the HR function. This is a study undertaken by an organization to identify its internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats.
- Proposing 2018 goals and objectives for the HR function, as well as longer-term goals that will influence the organization.
- Identifying resources (budget and headcount) available in 2018.
- Outlining reasonable tasks that could be accomplished, assigning priorities, responsibilities and due dates.
- Obtaining agreement on how the projects would be reported and evaluated.
- Providing alternatives should circumstance occur that might interrupt the plan’s execution.
The leader observed that a similar planning process had been used in operational areas of the company but had never been applied in Human Resources.
The Two-Pronged Plan
The presentation to the CEO outlined a two-prong plan on what Human Resources could do for the organization.
- Foremost was driving sales and reducing costs.
- Secondary was serving the internal customer groups, i.e., the other functions and employees of the company.
The CEO needed to be comfortable that there is something in it for him/her because resources were being allocated to the HR function and there needed to be a return on the investment. By taking the following steps, I believe HR can be treated more as an effective business partner.
- Identify and align how they will support the organization’s mission.
- Communicate their activities in specific action plans and due dates.
- Assign responsibilities and provide regular reports on progress achieved.
- Agree on an evaluation processes and metrics.
- Hold people accountable for expected results.
Taking these steps will improve Human Resources credibility and allow them to function more effectively as part of the leadership team.