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What’s next for HR? A seat at the top table – or the BIG seat?

For HR, the Board is in sight for most and a reality for some. But why stop there? Lindsay Soulsby, Director of Human Potential Accounting explains the key factors in HR reaching the top table – or even the BIG seat.

How far we’ve come…

HR can be easily forgiven right now for being a little punch drunk. Whilst adding more value than Tesco, the plaque on our door has changed from Personnel to Human Resources, to some exotic combination of Chief of Human Capital, Head of People and HC Directors – a lot of hard work by any measure!

So let’s just recap on the key milestones:

• Picking up statistical analysis and getting down with big employee data
• Integrating and coordinating often global talent frameworks
• Optimising engagement and harnessing engaging cultures
• Connecting Gen X to Gen Y (not to mention the Gen Z’s coming soon…)
• Creating great places to think, as well as work, in
• Helping the business win the war for talent

We’ve also broken down hierarchies, bridged silos, and shattered glass ceilings, for ourselves and others.

So how do we get to that top table seat?

And along comes the CIPD’s March 2012 report ‘Business Savvy: Giving HR the Edge’, which lists the four steps we now need to take to take our place on the Board: Understanding the business model; Generating insight and impact through data; Connecting and collaborating with curiosity; and Leading with integrity. Take these four business-savvy steps and you can answer Dave Ulrich’s question, “Are we there yet?” with a resounding, “Yessiree!”

But can we? Busy tackling the overwhelming demands of operational HR activities including stress, conflict, absence, presenteeism – HR have a lot on their plate without thinking about up-skilling their own human capital, never mind that of their team. Just when you think you’re out of dull old transactional and into all-guns-blazing transformational mode, they pull you back in.

So what is HR to do next? What’s in the best interest of the business? Personally, I don’t think HR can either sit still, or step back. But I also think HR are faced with 2 very different options:

Option 1 – Take the seat, but keep your head down

On one side, the door is open for HR to take a seat at the executive table on largely equal terms.

In this universe, HR doesn’t rock the ‘Old Boys’ Club’ too much. The usual roles range from ushering in Board level performance reviews, enriching Board diversity, dealing with CEO stress, executive-level conflict, and opening up the two-way can-of-worms that is HR Governance. Not all at once of course.

But there is another option. It might seem light years away, but here goes…

Option 2 – Take the seat and put your hat in the ring for the
big seat

On the other side though – the road less travelled and HR – and business – have a very different decision to make.

If we admit that HR can now tell a business what it has or needs to compete, and if the war for talent is the only game in town, is it really in the interest of the business for HR to stop short with a seat at the top table? Do we want HR more business-savvy, or business more HR-savvy? After all, the reason why HR is being called upon now more than ever is surely a reluctant admittance that ‘business as usual’ isn’t the most savvy option on the table.

Dare we dream the impossible dream?

If you follow the Jim Collin’s mantra of the right people in the right seats on the bus then this especially applies to the driver’s seat. If you’re good, you’ll know instinctively by now what you need to make that seat your own.

But to make sure that you can get to your chosen seat, you first need to turn your attention to your own HR team. Are they the right people in the right seats on the bus, and more importantly with the right skills to support you in getting HR to the top of your organisation? Are your HR professionals knowledgeable and practiced in the skills that count in 21st Century HR?

If the answer is yes – that’s great, your charge for the top table can commence. But if that answer is hesitant ‘not quite’, then this might be something you want to address – having the right skills in place is invaluable to having a fast-paced, dynamic team to help you on your way up the business ladder.

We have more than enough courses to meet you and your department’s needs and to put you on the map. After that, it’s up to you. It could be the best move you – and your business – ever makes.

Good luck!

Lindsay Soulsby
Director, Human Potential Accounting

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