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Posts Tagged ‘seat at the table’

Leaf in Executive Pocket

Making the weeds tolerable!

How often do we in HR lament the desire to get out of the tactical weeds and into more strategic work? You know, work that actually adds measurable long-term value to the business versus the activities that are more routine or functional and focused on short-term outcomes. It’s one of those things when you wish you had a dollar for each time the lament surfaces. But before we wade into the fracas between tactical and strategic, I want to actually remove the notion that you can totally eliminate the weeds. I’m doing this because wishing for the impossible will only make your work day more and more intolerable. So let’s marinate for a second in the knowledge that we will live with weeds. Okay, that’s good enough. I don’t want you to fret too much because I’m also going to tell you how to make those tactical weeds not just tolerable, but welcome, in your quest to play a more strategic role.

The tactical and the strategic are partners, period. They are not always equal partners. The share that one holds versus the other can vary greatly, so they are very dynamic partners, always in motion.  For most HR leaders, the goal is to shift the balance to the share held by the strategic. However, it is a fact of corporate life is that if the tactical is not taken care of appropriately, it will hold court indefinitely.  The tactical or operational aspects of human resources must function in a manner that makes them more or less background music or you will be stuck primarily in this mode. It’s extremely difficult for the C-Suite to hear your voice on strategic matters when tactical or operational matters under your managment are creating chaos.  Managing the tactical aspects of your human resources function effectively and efficiently so that they run smoothly and do not surface as distracting issues is the key to becoming viewed as someone who can command attention on more strategic matters.

At this point, I am going to toss in what may appear as a conundrum but truly is not. As you are addressing and putting in order the tactical aspects of HR (the processes, the systems, etc.) so that you can shift into a focus on strategy, you must already have your overall long-term strategic objectives for HR in place. If not, you will be caught in a loop of re-addressing those same areas you’re trying to move beyond if they don’t support the strategic objectives. It may sound like this is a “chicken and egg” debate but it is clear that the strategic must come first. How can it come first when you are neck-deep in the weeds? It’s simple. Most of the work has been done for you, if not along with you. Your strategic objectives should already exist within your organization’s corporate objectives. Your first order of business in the quest to be a strategic partner is to ferret out, that is, derive your HR strategic objectives from the existing corporate objectives. This single step will ensure that you have full alignment between the HR objectives and the corporate objectives of your organization.  That’s when you are working with a purpose and the tactical doesn’t seem so much like an intruder standing between you and your dream of being a true strategic partner. Every facet of what you accomplish will tie right into the strategic. You will see it and so will the C-Suite.  And guess what? If they don’t see it, you will have no problem showing the linkage!

Let’s stop fighting in this unwinnable battle between tactical HR and strategic HR. It should all be strategic! If you don’t or can’t see the strategic value in something that you are doing, why are doing it?

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.  Mora&Associates assists organizations with structuring people strategies to fulfill organizational strategy. For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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I heard a horrifying string of words at a conference recently. The topic fell under the heading strategic management and the presenter was addressing about 70 HR professionals and executives. He started out with the objective of the session which was to provide tools to better equip HR to contribute to strategic planning. He then warned the group that he would be addressing NUMBERS and that he understood the reason many of us chose HR as a career was so that we would not have to deal with those. I was stunned and cannot for the world remember much else that he said for the next several minutes.

Forgive me, but apparently, I have been approaching this whole practice of HR wrong for the last 15 years! I had no idea that I could avoid NUMBERS. I’ve actually been seeking them out, turning over rocks to find them, and even squeezing them out of colleagues, vendors, and staff when necessary. You see, I began with the belief that numbers were inherent in this field of work. My HR career started as a labor relations analyst. My job was to take all that verbiage that is congealed in collective bargaining agreements and not only monetize it but also convert the socioeconomic factors of the bargaining units into defined needs and wants to which values can be assigned. The world of HR was viewed very clearly in terms of numbers. This same thing that happens when viewing any workforce, an employee handbook, a set of benefit plans, talent management systems, employee relations programs, risk management initiatives, etc. I hope I don’t have mention compensation and other total reward elements where numbers are fairly obvious. If you are diligent, there are numbers everywhere you look in HR. I don’t see dead people, but I do see numbers.

No one should deceive themselves that numbers are not an inherent part of human resource management.  The business of HR is not the place to run if you want to hide from numbers. If it’s is not your thing, you are automatically limiting your career ascension. Being a “people person” will not earn you a coveted seat at the table. The table is all about the numbers. You will need to be able to translate wellness initiatives into premium cost-savings. You will need to be able to equate x% compensation increase into retention rates and show how this stacks up against your industry. Your risk management approach, which is the easiest for CFO’s to pick on, had better include the costs associated with defending against not only a valid claim but even a frivolous one compared to maintaining your annual compliance training schedule. Now, I also have to say that in addition to being able to spew numbers with the best of them, you will still need to demonstrate that you are connected with the people of your organization and the purely human motivations that accompany them to work each and every day.

I think I have established that although it appears soft on the upper half, HR needs to have a very firm underbelly resting on some solid numbers if there is any hope of gaining and then holding your seat at the table. If the regulatory alphabet soup we are served up each day  in HR didn’t frighten you, adding numbers to the mix should be no problem.

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If you are interested in learning more about how to approach your practice of HR from this view, drop me a line! http://morahr.com/contactus.aspx

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I attended a presentation at the local HR association monthly meeting focused on “HR at the Table”. The presenter was the senior executive VP of Global Sales for a very prominent organization. Do you find that a little interesting also? Yes, well, he had at some point during his career held responsibility for the HR function and gained a great appreciation and understanding of the function. Beyond that, why not? Why not hear from someone whose function is quite naturally at the table? The shortest possible version of his overall message was that if you want a seat at the table, you must think and act strategically! Ta-daaaa! 

You’ve heard that before? Okay, there is a bit more. It’s the bit more that inspired this entry and will probably inspire more. During the 40-minute presentation, it was also asserted that an individual can be taught to think strategically. What are your thoughts on that? When I first heard it, I immediately thought of all the HR professionals I’ve encountered who did not approach their work in this manner. I tried to imagine that group shifting to a more strategic approach. Is it truly possible? As I thought about it more, for some, yes! For others, I’m sorry to say, but no. For the latter group, myopia either set in somewhere along the way or has always been present. Their neural pathways are set.  This type of change requires a major shift in perspective and thought patterns. You will have to, not only, see things more broadly but find solutions from a broader range of creative thought. The shift and the path to the table call for openess, adaptability, discipline, and an immense amount of mental fortitude.  That is major change if you’re not so inclined already!

There are many HR professionals who do have the potential to make their way to the table. Those professionals can take that unoccupied seat by being more strategic in their overall approach to human resource managment. Ahhh, there it is again, be strategic. This persistent call to be more strategic can be a bit confounding because you’ve heard it tossed around too often and too loosely. Does each person who states this have the same definition and expectation in mind? Probably not, but simply put, being strategic means thinking long-term and broadly about the business you’re in and finding solutions that yield the most value on a long-term basis. It means getting beyond what’s right in front of you for the day, week, or month. This can be a tough task in itself for many but no one will tell you that the path is short nor smooth. Your will and your capabilities will be tested and challenged all along the way but coming from someone who has traveled that road, it is so worthwhile. Your organization and you will be better for it.

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