Dear HR Executive:
Is your career on the fast track? Do you influence your company's direction? Contribute to the corporate discussion about customers, products and strategy? Are you a participant in senior level meetings? Do managers seek your opinion?
If you can answer "yes" to these questions and you also initiate people programs and processes, welcome to the executive board room. You've made it. Congratulations on your career success. Still earning that seat? These 8 tips will fast forward your career and keep you sitting at the executive table...
Understand Your Organization's Business
Yes, I know, when you're buried in the day-to-day, it's hard to remember that you're actually running a business. Ernie and Harriet aren't getting along. Have to play moderator. Julie doesn't understand her benefits. Have to hold her hand for awhile. Bob wants to know where to find training records. Mary needs FMLA time after the birth of her baby.
Ah, yes, you're in the people business, a small business within a business. But, you're also in the bigger business of your organization. Spend time every day talking with sales, production, quality and accounting. Make sure you know what's going on in that bigger world. Know your customers, the cost of your products and how you're going to meet your monthly sales goals. You help the people get what they need to run the business effectively, profitably, and respectfully in an empowering environment.
Share Responsibility for Business Goals and Plans
The overall business goals are your goals, too. When you make plans for your department, they should be directed at achieving overall business goals as well as Human Resources goals. Developing a performance culture is a goal you'll likely own.
You contribute to the inventory turns goal, too. You supply the best people who are trained in the business, motivated by their work, rewarded by the company and led by effective management. You are knowledgeable about the business and can ask questions that encourage continuous improvement by all.
Know the Human Resources Business Thoroughly
Your customers rely on you for correct and insightful information and advice. What more can I say? You are reliable, credible, trustworthy and knowledgeable. Let people down and they'll stop coming to you for information and advice. They'll lose faith and confidence in your answers. And then, what good are you? (Remember, it's always okay to say you'll find out.)
Run Your Department Like a Business
Don't get so caught up in the business of your overall business that you forget to run your department like a business, too. Meet with your reporting staff members weekly. Meet with your department weekly to make sure all members are pointed in the same direction.
Your goals must contribute to the accomplishment of the overall business goals. Your action plans to achieve the goals need to translate into daily "to-do" lists for your staff. Every important activity needs a feedback loop or audit so you know it is being accomplished.
As an example, new employee orientation is scheduled regularly. Does every employee attend? Are all covered policies, procedures and information detailed on a checklist that the employee signs? Are these checklists filed in the employee's file? How frequently do you audit the files or attend the orientation, thus ensuring that what you think is happening - is, in fact, happening.
Measure Outcomes and Goal Achievement, not Work Processes
Human Resources is responsible for the organization's achievement of the overall goals. HR is also responsible for identifying and measuring goals specific to HR.
Paul Toulson and Philip Dewe of the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand, compiled a list of 32 possible measures that organizations use to measure human resources. They then performed a benchmark study across multiple organizations to identify Human Resources measures.
Rank ordering across the whole sample they took, the six most frequently used measures were:
- accident frequency rates (60.3 percent),
- client satisfaction surveys (60.1 percent),
- absenteeism rates (56.3 percent),
- training and education costs (56.3 percent),
- cost of people (53.9 percent) and
- competencies (53.2 percent).
Not surprisingly, the most infrequently used measures may well reflect some of the difficulties associated with developing appropriate methods and perhaps, the significance given to the human resource function and the idea that its activities should be measured in some way. Most of the organizations surveyed do not, for example, measure training cost, return on investment in human capital, value added per employee, time to fill jobs, return on training and seniority.
These are the results measurements, not process measures (number of people trained) crucial to demonstrating HR success - the success that will land you at the executive table.
Remember the People in Human Resources
Is your office a magnet for people who need help, advice, or a sounding board? Are some of your visitors senior managers? Even the CEO? If so, you're remembering that you are there to serve the people so they can meet the business goals.
At Southwest Airlines, the Human Resources function is called the Office for People and the senior HR person has a similar title. First and foremost, you are there to serve the people. I judge my success by a day when the maintenance technician, a production worker, the Engineering Director, and the CEO all stop by for advice or just general discussion. How do you assess yours?
Express Thoughtful Opinions Backed With Data and Study
You have to understand the numbers. How else can you offer a solid, intelligent opinion about business direction? Learn everything you can so you have opinions and your opinions are backed up with data. You need to understand the effect of decisions your office makes on the work of the rest of the company. (e.g. Don't schedule meetings with plant personnel on the last day of their shipping month.)
Learn and Grow Your Career Every Day Through Every Possible Method
Use your knowledge of how people develop to do what is necessary to continue your growth curve.
- Seek out a more experienced mentor or sounding board. You need someone you can confide in and learn from.
- Attend professional HR conferences, meetings and events.
- Attend executive leadership and management conferences in addition to your HR professional associations. You seek knowledge that goes beyond the bounds of your discipline and department.
- Attend at least forty hours of training and education every year. Make sure your staff members attend, too. Cover all aspects of the business and running a business.
- Seek out people who will ask you questions and challenge your beliefs so you can continue to grow. I work, currently, with a CEO, who asks me questions. I may not always like them, but the questions challenge me to think things through and to follow issues to their logical conclusion. He asks repeatedly, "How will you know if that is working? Happening? Bringing the results you want?"
There, you have them - my best ideas for what works to earn you a seat at the executive table. Lots of work. Undoubtedly. But, you invest the same number of hours in your work every week anyway. Why not have the hours you invest be as productive, influential and strategic as possible? You'll be happy you did.
Source: Susan Heathfield, humanresources.about.com