Strategic HR Organizations: The New Mandate

March 16, 2017 | Jill Christensen | IBM
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When I led the Global Internal Communications team at Avaya a decade ago, I had the opportunity and privilege to serve on the Human Resources (HR) Leadership Team.  During my tenure, the Team would regularly talk about the fact that they did not feel like HR was a respected business unit, which had a seat at the table alongside the CEO and other C-Suite leaders.

It was common knowledge that the path there was to transition from a tactical function to a strategic function, which added significant value by adding to the company’s bottom line.  However, the Team struggled with how to do this.

In addition to the fact that many of the HR Business Partners were fearful of saying “no” to their internal clients – even for tactical requests – in order to help make HR more strategic, there were a myriad of new systems that would need to be deployed.  In many instances, these systems did not talk to one another and it meant having to create, deploy, and train employees on new global systems and processes, which was a huge and costly undertaking.

For these reasons, many HR organizations have chosen to remain to be more tactical than strategic, even though they know one price they’ll pay is not having a voice and a solid seat at the table along with other C-Suite leaders.

As a member of this Team, I saw the dynamic that was taking shape and decided that for my organization – Global Internal Communications – I was going to do things differently.  From working alongside of senior leaders for years, I understood that they love data.  They eat is up.   Why?  Because you don’t get to be an executive without learning a thing or two about numbers. After all, executives present numbers to their boards all the time and are judged on their ability to ensure the numbers are directionally correct, and the company is meeting or exceeding its goals.

So although it was my title that got me to the table with senior leaders, what kept me at the table was my ability to measure virtually everything my organization did and show that we were adding strategic value.  For instance, many Internal Communications functions think they are being strategic by reporting that they wrote and published 50 articles about the company’s strategy.  However, that’s not strategic – it’s tactical.

A more impressive data point is to show senior leaders that Employee Engagement rose 5 points in one year in part because employees said communications about the company’s strategy enabled them to understand where we are going as a team, feel an emotional connection to the company, and give more discretionary effort.

The truth is that being strategic is the new mandate.  Whatever function or business unit you are in, you can find meaningful tools and analytics that cement your group’s contributions to the bottom line and, on a personal side, enable you to stay at the top of your game.  Because let’s face it, there’s a lot of competition in the marketplace for the best jobs.  The people who are going to secure these jobs are the ones who are continually growing, learning, seeing insights, staying on top of or creating trends, and bringing solutions to the table that enable their company to soar.

For these reasons, I’m so honored to partner with IBM and HCI on March 28 for a webcast, How IBM Customers Are Analyzing Engagement Data to Improve Business, about the power of analytics.  IBM understands the realities of business and have developed a suite of interactive, user-friendly, cost-effective tools that enable HR to shift from tactical to strategic, and be a value-added function by contributing to company performance.

With Watson Talent Insights, HR professionals can make strategic, data driven decisions that improve business results. They do this by using any workforce data by simply asking questions in natural language, just like you would ask another person. By doing this, they can help understand and predict the impact of talent decisions.

Sound like something your HR organization could leverage to add value to your company’s bottom line?  I thought so.  You can find information on customer success stories and how Watson Talent Insights can take you and your HR organization to the next level here.  Make Strategic HR the new normal.