Getting HR to Engage

As I see it there are 2 kinds of people in HR: people looking to be a strategic partner to the business, looking to claim that seat at the table, and those happy to be the rule-police, the paper pushers, and simply complain about not being allowed at the table. We are our own worst enemy. And as long as there are 2 messages coming from HR, we will continue to have troubles convincing leadership that we can be the strategic partner, to be able to work on the business and not in it, to help the business succeed (and not just by keeping us out of the courtroom or away from fines).

Most of my career has been spent in the latter, with those who are content with the status quo, who can’t see HR as being more. Those who complain when you talk about bringing in an ERP that will support both HR and finance functions. “But what will I do?”

My boss now has given me a seat at the table. I’ve been there since he hired me. He wanted HR at his table (and ironically has had to fight against HR for this position — it’s a bit complicated). I am now responsible for the employment life cycle for 190+ FTEs, and several temp employees. I help their supervisors to become stronger leaders to be able to encourage & support their employees. I am starting to say I work for them because I do. And when I put their best interest first, it is easier to “sell” to them that I am on their side. I’m not there just to tell them what they are doing wrong or to fire them (even if that’s what my daughter thinks I do).

My thoughts lately have been on those supervisors & how do I get them to see that HR stuff is NOT just for me. But as I look at how to do that, I wonder if they are the right target audience? (Different post of questions as I explore that arena) Should we be targeting those HR professionals who don’t see the value in being a strategic partner or only see that for the “leaders” in HR and not for everyone?

A lot has been said about HR taking a “seat at the table” but are we getting the right people involved in what it means to have that seat? Can that HR leader who has the seat or is attempting to take that seat truly keep it if those in the HR office, those doing the day to day work don’t understand how they fit into the strategic plan?

I don’t know if I have any answers to this. Our local SHRM group struggles to get these professionals to attend our meeting as they don’t see us as meeting their needs (though they won’t make suggestions either). These professionals tend to work in larger offices & are responsible for only 1 area of HR. I don’t see many of them obtaining an HR certification or additional education.

How do we, HR professionals who want and have a seat at the table, get those “others” to think more strategically? How do we help them see there’s more to HR than moving papers around? Getting people out of “the way we’ve always done it” is hard. Change is hard. We need to be change agents, not just with our employees but with everyone in HR. We need to stop fighting against each other & figure out how to get those happy with the status quo to see life will be better. And honestly, I think our seat at the table will be waiting.

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