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Making HR part of your organizational DNA

Seat at the table, strategic partner, business partner – all phrases used to describe some sort of end game that HR Pros are supposed to strive to obtain.  For the record, I absolutely hate all three of those phrases/descriptors.  In fact, there needs to be some sort of rule that if an HR Pro utters one of them, they owe money to a charity of their organization’s choosing!  Seriously though, as a profession, there are better ways to elevate our organizational status other than throwing around those phrases.  In my opinion, the better end game is to strive to integrate HR into the very fabric of the organization you work for.  In essence, you want to make HR part of the organizational DNA.

DNA#2Here is the thing, there is no magic formula to make this happen.  If there was, someone would have patented, sold it and made themselves into a millionaire by now.  However, there are best practices out there that will allow you as an HR Pro to move the dial on making HR part of your organizational DNA.  The key thing to note is that it isn’t about developing and implementing the latest talent acquisition or management practice(s) – i.e. recognition programs, social media recruiting, etc.  What it really comes down to is being able to provide solutions to organizational (operational) problems.  If you and your HR team can provide solutions to operational clients (notice I used the word ‘client’ and not ‘partner’) and not bog them down in transactional work and legal compliance, than you are well on your way to integrating HR into your organizational DNA.

Your starting point should always be to make sure you (as the organizational HR leader) are part of any regular company level leadership meetings.  That is, if there is a weekly Sr. Management meeting in your company, than you need to be at it.  Don’t ask for permission to go or be a part of it – just go.  But you better make sure you can add value to the meeting.  Remember, the key is to provide solutions to organizational problems – this could be anything from your ability to foster better communication in your company, to identifying root cause issues of turnover – you get the point.  Have something to say/provide that enables your operations clients to realize greater success in their roles – anything that helps them find (better) people faster, get them onboarded, trained, integrated and retained would be a good start!

To leverage any gains found from being at your senior level meetings, HR also needs to have representation at department level meetings.  For example, in our organization, there is always someone from our HR department that attends the Director level meetings of our largest department(s).  In our case, because we are an engineering firm, HR always attends and has an agenda slot at the Engineering Director’s staff meetings.  Now, we don’t just get that invite and agenda slot because we are really congenial HR folks, we get it because we are able to add value.  Quite often we are there to enable communication of any items that are impacting the Director’s managers.  We are there to help them solve operational (people) issues that are impacting their teams.  If they are feeling pain with the current performance management process, we are there to help solve that problem for them.  If they are unsure how to rollout/support/interpret employee survey results, then we are there to help with that.  If the Engineering departments are feeling pain with how to obtain professional development support for their staff than we are there to solve that problem for them too.  Finally, if they are experiencing pain around type of organizational process (whether specific to HR or not) we are there to help enable a solution.  My team and I position ourselves as problem solvers and enablers and that is why we have spot on the agenda.

Another major way/area in which HR is able to make itself part of the organizational DNA is to have operational leaders lead HR initiatives.  Yes, you heard that right, have operations lead HR initiatives.  I will give you another real life example to show you what I mean.  A focus for us has been improving recognition at our organization.  Through our employee surveys, it has come up as something of great importance to our staff (duh, I know) and that it is something we (as organizational leaders) need to focus on.  So, how did we go about getting traction in this area?  We launched a major initiative aimed at creating and identifying tools, opportunities and rewards that would support recognition activity.  We engaged stakeholders – employees and managers – to find out what would work and what wouldn’t.  Was this an HR initiative in the purest sense – yes.  Did HR ‘lead’ this initiative – no.  So now you are going to ask, “why didn’t HR lead it, who did and did it work?”  In order to give this initiative “stickiness”, we had an operational director of our largest department lead it with support from HR.  This was the key to having this work and not be seen as something HR was shoving down everyone’s throats.  As well, we were confident that because it was operationally led, that it would have a successful implementation – which it did.  HR was the enabling force behind the scenes that focused on communication and execution of the deliverables.

So, to sum up, what are the keys to having HR imbed itself in your organizational DNA?

1) We need to provide solutions – not be the compliance cops. Be seen as the provider of business solutions (and not just HR solutions).

2)  Focus on enabling – enable organizational communication and operational excellence.

3)  Lead by taking a step back – have your operational leaders at the forefront of things.  Lead by leading through them.  Be their coach and mentor.  Remember, HR wins when Operations wins.

4) Be a part of what is happening – this comes through involvement at operational meetings and events.  What better way to support the business than to attend department meetings.  Keep and ear to the ground and listen to what employees are REALLY saying.

5) Last but not least – no HR jargon.  Not now, not ever.  Operations needs to understand what you are talking about.  HR jargon is used to cover up lack of business understanding.  Your operational clients’ B.S. detector will go off if they hear/smell too much HR jargon!  Keep in simple and understand the business drivers and then apply your HR knowledge towards providing a business solution.

What about you?  How have you integrated HR into your organizational DNA?  What has worked for you?  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of dream designs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. Very good article. I agree entirely that HR practitioners have to stop talking about how they want to be treated or perceived. They/we will get more recognition and be involved to a greater extent by their clients if if they learn the organization’s business, act/do and add value, than by whining about not being at the table.

    Perhaps most importantly, HR practitioners need to understand that it’s not about them. The most successful HR team is not out in front. It is in the background helping management shine, employees to be productive, and the organization to deliver excellent products, programs and services.

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