HR Belongs in the C-Suite. Here’s Why.

HR Belongs in the C-Suite. Here’s Why.

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During the rise of the production era in the 20th century, human resources departments existed to keep companies compliant with evolving safety laws, maintain employee records, and handle employee complaints.

But as the U.S. economy shifts from manual labor to knowledge work, many companies’ biggest safety concern is tripping over the bean bag chair on the way to the espresso machine.

As for the rest of the traditional HR function — payroll, benefits, recruiting, training and more — HR technology is getting the job done better, faster, and much cheaper than a salaried professional ever could.

So where does this leave HR experts?

4 seismic shifts in Human Resources

As this reskilling takes place and HR transforms from tactical to strategic, there’s an increasing need for HR reps at the highest levels of executive leadership. Several seismic shifts are taking place in the way we work that require a business to completely transform their senior HR roles.

1. Employee-driven vs. employer-driven

According to The Wall Street Journal, the labor market hasn’t been this tight since Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind in 1969.

Think about how much has changed since then. The internet has made it possible for people to find work across the country or across the world. And as the talent pool opens up to recruiters, so does the competition.

While today’s prosperous economy is great for business, it’s terrible for acquiring quality talent.

The ability to think strategically about who you’re hiring, when to spend your organization’s resources, and how to develop people so that they’re working together to meet company goals is the art of thinking strategically about HR.

2. Growth culture vs. compliance culture

As mentioned, today’s world of work is less focused on complying with safety laws than it is with maximizing human capital. The former aims to minimize mistakes; the latter aspires to turn mistakes into opportunities.

Culture expert Tony Schwartz says, “True growth culture focuses on deeper issues connected to how people feel, and how they behave as a result.”

At the executive level, HR leaders can pave the way in understanding why employees do what they do, and how to engage them in ways that maximize their contributions. (Psst- regular surveys are a good place to start.)

3. Symphonic leadership vs. siloed leadership

In a knowledge economy, soft skills reign supreme. Tech entrepreneur Vik Patel says soft skills are “key to finding the most valuable employees.” Organizationally, soft skills like listening, nonverbal communication, and persuasion create trust, unity, and connection among collaborators.

Who better to nurture collaboration than a high-level HR leader?

People-oriented workers are typically drawn to roles like HR because of their intrinsic knack to connect, empathize, and mediate. These skills are no less important at the executive level than they are at any other level. Gone are the days when divide and conquer is a business strategy that works. Now, collaboration is key if you want to succeed as an organization.

4. People-focused vs. profits-focused

In August 2019, high-powered executives from Apple and JPMorgan Chase argued that companies shouldn’t simply focus on delivering profits for shareholders; they must also invest in both employees and customers.

This mindset is a giant departure from the corporate culture that’s existed since, well, forever. Not only is focusing on employees now considered the “socially responsible” thing to do, but there are also studies proving the business value of this approach.

Investing in employees first leads to lower turnover costs, higher customer satisfaction, and higher revenue. Time will tell if corporate leaders put their money where their mouth is. But the shift in thinking is a start.

A note to HR leaders: Earning your seat at the leadership table

Have we made the case for HR leaders in the C-Suite yet? If so — it comes with responsibility. Today’s HR leaders have to play by these new rules:

Embracing technology — Payroll, benefits, performance reviews, and paperwork. With HR software, the tactical pieces of the function are removed and HR leaders are freed up to be strategic. Choosing the right HR software can take some time to figure out, but without it, you’re still stuck in 1995.

Using analytics — Having a knack for people-oriented work is why most HR leaders end up in their roles. But with mounds of data at our fingertips these days, it’s critical to rely on science, not just your intuition. HR leaders need to equip themselves with the right analytics to ensure their decisions align with broader business goals.

Worrying about the things the CEO worries about — Any high-level executive needs to have the ability to consider the entire business picture; not just part of it. Understand what your CEO’s biggest challenges are, what their goals are. Spend a day with your operations department to understand how they do the job. There’s no need for you to become an expert, but there is a need for you to be able to speak the language in order to be successful.

Using the tools to get there

As the role of HR leaders evolves from a maintainer of talent to maximizer of talent, the need for representation in the C-suite has become critical. So let’s talk.



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