Human Resources is a tough job. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. As HR practitioners, we not only have to protect our organizations from employment liability and litigation but we are also responsible for laying the ground work to grow the company and keep employees engaged and productive. That’s a lot of work, especially for those of us in the HR Generalist/HR Business Partner role acting as an HR department of ONE. Something that a lot of HR professionals struggle with, on top of their large workload, is getting buy-in from the executive leadership team. Without influence over the executive group, it’s near impossible to roll out new HR initiatives or focus on your operational functions.
In July, I attended a great seminar focused on building influence as an HR leader. The first exercise we were tasked with was defining what the word ‘influence’ meant to us as individuals. I define influence as “the ability to persuade/encourage others to take on/accept/act on a way of thinking or course of action suggested and vetted by [you].” I also believe that HR should be influential at all levels of the organization: employees, line managers, and typically, most importantly, the executive leadership team. HR should have a hand in driving business objectives, strategy and creating and maintaining culture. To be successful at gaining influence, you will need to show all parties that there is mutual benefit in what you are trying to accomplish. Influence is not manipulation, power positioning or serving your own agenda. Building influence serves to the greater good of the organization and meets business objectives and long-term strategy.
So how does HR increase influence? By showing their unique value to their organization. In order to do so, you need to understand what is of topmost priority to your executives. In most cases these objectives will be to 1) Increase revenue, 2) Decrease debt and to 3) Avoid future catastrophe. Incorporate these three objectives into your essential job functions every day.
#1 Increase Revenue: If you want to increase revenue, be thorough and diligent in your interview and hiring process and practices. Make sure that your new hires are meeting all the necessary requirements you have identified to be successful in the role and that they fit in with the cultural environment. Employees that feel comfortable and safe in their work environments, create great working relationships and typically remain engaged and highly productive. Productivity = REVENUE!
#2 Decrease Debt: This objective can be a bit tricky from the HR perspective. As an industry, we are better at spending money than generating money, but we can keep an eye on overall expenditures and find some inexpensive alternatives that can reduce our short-term expenses. Example: you have 5 open job requisitions that you need to fill. Contact your favorite job board and see if they will cut you a deal for purchasing more than 1 job posting credit at a time. Talk to your favorite HR vendor and see if they have any hookups on the job sites that they use to recruit for their teams. It never hurts to ask a trusted business partner for a little bit of help, especially if you think it can save you money in the long term.
#3 Avoid Future Catastrophe: Stay current on local and federal employment law! Have a trusted employment attorney on speed dial in case you have a pressing employee issue that you feel could escalate into a legal liability. Be sure to train managers on anti-harassment practices, conflict-resolution methods and fair labor practices.
These three ways to increase value to your organization are just the first step in the 3 step process to building influence as an HR leader. Stay tuned for Series 2 and 3 of Influence – Who Should Have It and How You Get It: Building Influence as an HR Leader.
Good night my HR rockstars.