Why HR should be part of the senior management team
Evolution? Maybe it’s time for revolution for HR in Professional Service Firms
I recently had a very interesting conversation with the Finance Director of a medium sized professional service firm. The individual has a wealth of experience and I certainly learnt a lot about Brexit, current monetary policy and the impact of technology on global trading. Sadly I’m not sure that he learnt as much from me!
But what I really took from the meeting was the journey in the ‘importance and gravitas’ of the role of the Finance Director. In his words “twenty five years ago, I was the numbers man. Nowadays I’m seen as a businessman. After all the numbers are linked to every aspect of the firm and its strategy.”
And so it seems an evolution has taken place with firms of all sizes enjoying the benefit of highly skilled finance professionals. They are ‘eating at the top table’ alongside the Managing Partner and the Senior Partner team. So all bases covered?
Well……no. Because as we hear regularly, the most important aspect of any firm is it’s people. Pick up a copy of the Harvard Business Review and most of the topics focus more on people, engagement, culture and behavioural aspects than ‘hard business’.
We work with a wide range of professional service firms and many have some extremely talented and experienced strategic and operational Human Resources professionals performing pivotal roles. Yet senior management and employees at all levels do not always appreciate the value that HR brings to the firm. And this seems consistent with other sectors and industries.
A recent CIPD survey of UK employees revealed that:
- 48% of staff haven’t talked to HR in the last year!!
- HR is known predominantly for operational and compliance activities
- Only 33% see HR as useful in ensuring the right mix of talent
- Only 31% see HR as contributing towards shaping culture
- Only 38% see HR as useful in developing and training people
- Only 14% of people think HR have any responsibility for helping to define, and deliver against, organisational strategy
Given this, it is no surprise that the senior HR teams haven’t been able to follow the lead of the Financial Directors and ensure that they are actively involved at the heart of the firm. And maybe it is time for revolution not evolution. And this needs to start with a re-brand!
So what can HR do to change perception and to create opportunities to add value and impact more on the wider business? We believe that there are 6 key steps that HR professionals should follow:
- Develop a better understanding of the firm, it’s dynamics, it’s challenges, it’s decision making processes, it’s performance and it’s needs. This provides invaluable context to the people capabilities and challenges of the business
- Build strong and trusting relationships with people at all levels of the firm, and particularly key stakeholders and people of influence
- Develop a compelling ‘story’ to sell the benefit of an engaged workforce aligned with the business strategy and creating a culture based on the values and purpose of the firm
- Develop a more proactive mindset, developing solutions and ideas in advance of problems and ensuring these are in the eye-line of the senior team
- Becoming invaluable and trusted HR Advisors. This means being confident in having strategic conversations with senior players, developing strong influencing skills and maximising personal impact
- Being able to lead change – to play the crucial role of ensuring that people ‘get on the bus and find the right seat’.
It is essential that the people agenda is at the core of decision making at the top level of firms. Instead of waiting for organisations to recognise the need for HR strategic expertise, we believe that there is a massive opportunity for driven and talented HR professionals to be proactive and lead the revolution.
And we would love to help!