What’s your opinion of your Human Resources department?  Paper pusher? Only there when you need help with benefits and birthdays?  Wait… Does our company have a Human Resources department?  Let’s face it… it’s not always the team that everyone wants to join—or even worse—the team you want to partner with to hire your team. Human Resources has an image problem. But here at the Jack Welch Management Institute, we help HR leaders navigate past this negative perception and position themselves with not only a seat at the table but as an independent confidant to the CEO.

Without a doubt, the head of HR should be the second most important person in any organization. From the point of view of the CEO, the director of HR should be at least equal to the CFO —Jack Welch

But now as an HR professional can you do that? How do you earn a seat at the table? How can you earn the respect of the C-suite?  We recently hosted a webinar in partnership with SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) to discuss just that. Mary Carr, JWMI’s Dean of Curriculum and Content shared the five keys steps HR professionals can take to evolve their HR role to a position of primacy within any organization.

5 Steps to Earning a Seat at the Table

BE SEEN AS THE TALENT MANAGEMENT EXPERT!  Benefits, payroll, and other administrative tasks are essential. But there is no more important goal than hiring the right person for the job. And not just any person—you want to hire the best and brightest! HR professionals need to redefine themselves as talent management experts. You need to be the go-to partner that will help other departments build and develop their teams. Make talent your number one priority. You need to be the go-to resource that has a plan, understands where talent gaps are, speaks to other operators about their needs within the business, understands the hiring market, and has the foresight to look ahead at what’s coming and plan for that. Lastly, ensure you have the right measures in place to assess and reward talent.

At JWMI, we believe in differentiation. Reward the stars (the top 20%) both financially and with additional responsibility, work to coach and grow the middle 70%, and speak candidly with the bottom 10% to understand if the position is a good fit for them. Retaining top talent and developing future leaders is key to any organization’s success. Putting a process in place like differentiation ensures that everyone from the CEO to the manager to the employee understands where they stand within the larger organization.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” —Jack Welch

SHARPEN YOUR BUSINESS ACUMEN AND ALIGN YOUR ACTIONS WITH THE COMPANY’S STRATEGY.  Often HR professionals are not seen as “part” of the business nor included within strategy sessions. To change this perception, you need to demonstrate your business acumen. Show that you understand how the company makes money, how each area of the business contributes to organizational success, and the competitive advantage that building an organization filled with A-level players brings. Speak the language of the business, not HR rhetoric. Share your point of view candidly in meetings; don’t just sit there, afraid to speak up.

TURN YOUR DEPARTMENT FROM A COST CENTER INTO A PROFIT CENTER.  HR professionals need to be able to “speak with numbers.” Deliver a clear and definable ROI for the HR department using quantifiable metrics to demonstrate efficacy. How engaged is the work-force? How has the talent you’ve hired performed and driven value for the company? If your company is currently using metrics to track HR activities and programs- great! If you aren’t tracking and measuring, this should be an immediate action item. If you aren’t comfortable with numbers, take a course. Better yet, cross-train in an operational department to gain insight. And become friendly with your finance peers who will be a valuable resource. Finally, understand the real costs of turnover when factoring in expenses for hiring, onboarding, and training. Know how you measure your top talent and what the pay norms are for that skillset caliber.

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY AND CONCISELY.  It’s not easy to get the ear of the CEO or other C-suite executives, a lack of executive presence can undermine even the most capable HR professional. The critical component of an effective executive presence is often overlooked in today’s fast-paced business world. At JWMI, our MBA students take an Executive Presence course which teaches the communication tactics often reserved for the C-suite. We stress how to write an effective memo, how to put together a compelling PowerPoint, and most importantly how to present yourself via WebEx or an in-person meeting. Outside of getting your MBA, you should ask for communication feedback from those around you, practice presentations in the mirror, and find a role model who you can emulate behavior from within your organization and who can help you grow.

BUILD TRUST, BECOME A VALUED ADVISOR.  HR, perhaps more than any other business function, can help develop a culture of truth, transparency, and candor in the organization. To start, survey employees, listen to their issues, and work to fix those problems. Bring energy and optimism to the job every day and deliver bad news quickly so people can respond to it and take action. Candor doesn’t develop naturally; it takes continued practice. Everyone can improve, so being both open to receiving feedback as well as giving it, will slowly help build the foundation for trust. It may take years, but once the workforce sees HR as a trusted partner in their endeavors as well as a valued advisor to senior executives you know you are on the right track., HR needs to balance being both a parent and pastor. Our MBA with Human Resources concentration curriculum helps to do just that.

Start implementing these five steps into your organization and you will be on your way to gaining a seat at the table.

About the Jack Welch Management Institute

Our new MBA concentration in Human Resources, built on Jack Welch’s time-test business principles, aims to position the CHRO (Chief Human Resource Officer) as a top position in the company, second behind the CEO. Because HR professionals should earn a seat at the table—as they help to set their company up for success.