Depending on whether your organization uses a centralized, decentralized or hybrid model for HR service and delivery, there are intrinsic issues HR faces when working with leaders from non-HR departments. HR has long been a relatively siloed profession and generally only interacts with other departments and leaders in regular, scripted ways; working with finance for payroll, for instance. For HR practitioners to have a real impact on the business, they must communicate and work effectively and efficiently with the other parts of the business.
One of the biggest challenges HR faces is due to its history. Human Resources has long been seen as a support organization for other departments, dealing with the line-level employee and managers, not senior leadership of those groups. Before beginning any meaningful dialogue, HR must learn the language, metrics and KPIs used by other departments.
The other challenge HR faces is aligning their perspective to support the business as a whole, thinking in terms of business results rather than supporting individual or tactical efforts. The support given to those smaller groups should remain, of course, but when communicating with leadership, a holistic view of how all the parts come together is necessary.
This lack of a strategic view is reflected in the lack of meaningful business decisions that most organizations make based on HR recommendations, as shown in Brandon Hall Group’s study, People Data, Analytics and Algorithms: What Works?
On a scale of 1 to 5, please rate your level of agreement with this statement: “The recommendations that have been generated from our data analysis have provided breakthrough results for our organization and transformed the way we do business.” (1 = Strongly disagree; 5 = Strongly agree) = 2.91
The costs of failing to communicate with other leaders in the organization go beyond raising HR’s profile with leadership. One of the major effects of not connecting with other leaders is the inability to support the business in all ways that HR can and should. However, the other big consequence is that HR itself will suffer by not having the resources needed to meet the needs of the business. Brandon Hall Group research shows that more than half of all HR teams are only “somewhat” ready to handle future challenges.
How Ready is Your Current HR Team to Handle Future Requirements of the Business?
The pandemic brought these consequences into a very stark light when organizations discovered how unprepared they were for rapid and dramatic changes.
How to effectively communicate and support other leaders is an important question for HR practitioner to ask first, but there are other questions that practitioners must ask about their own organization:
- How can technology help create better communication between HR and other leaders?
- Who are the leaders are most likely to benefit from improved communication and support from HR?
- What are the factors limit successful communication between HR andother leaders?
- Who are the key stakeholders in the organization that can facilitate better and more consistent communication between HR and other leaders?
Brandon Hall Group has done multiple research studies in HR and Leadership Development, and there are common threads that repeat regardless of the topic at hand when it comes to working with leaders in both HR and other departments. They can be summed up in the following actions that HR professionals can use to communicate with their leaders in an effective and meaningful manner:
Speak the right language: Most leaders in other departments think in terms of business cases and specific business metrics. Successful communication from HR practitioners uses and understands language that resonates with executives to ensure communication is clear and demonstrates understanding of their point of view.
Teach: Leaders in non-HR disciplines tend to solve problems with the tools that they have. HR, as a core discipline, is able to teach people to think laterally and creatively to solve problems. The main point when working with other leaders to find better solutions is working on scenario planning and coming up with multiple strategic options rather than concentrating on immediate tactical problems.
Listen: Communicating can often be simply a matter of getting your point across, but listening is more important than talking — maybe more important. Other leaders may have their own language and concerns, and it is imperative that what they are trying to say is what is heard by HR. No matter the department or role in the company, the overall goal remains the same throughout — ensuring the organization achieves its goals. As long as everyone is clear on that, all communication will be much easier.
Overall, the above actions can be summarized as taking a more business-centric approach. Begin by analyzing the specific business problems top leaders are facing, understand them within the context of their situation and provide solutions that can be carried out using HR resources. HR often has data that other departments do not, especially in the form of integrated data that can show direct or indirect links between people’s actions and the business results they seek. However, the most important starting point is understanding how HR strategies fit into your organization as a whole. Work forward from there.
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