How HR Executives can Lead Change Directly to the Boardroom

Reality has changed as businesses struggle to regain control in the current global slowdown. Today’s testing economic climate offers HR both a challenge and an unequalled opportunity to take a lead role beyond what they have. Many HR people still have a process – versus a strategic-oriented mindset: a hermetic focus on internal processes that juxtaposes the strategic nature of what the company is trying to accomplish. Even the majority of large sophisticated companies have still not made the transition. The secret lies in reinvention: lead your own change by upgrading the focus and scope of your responsibility for the company’s workforce – its productivity engine. If you fail to quickly readjust to the current state of the marketplace, you risk sending a signal that your function is not truly strategic.

Improve your ability to think, speak, and act like a strategic partner to the Executive team as follows:

  1. Develop a More Strategic Mindset
    Ask quality questions to learn all you can about strategic issues in your business. Develop relationships with people who can help deepen your understanding of the business, customers and marketplace. Brainstorm about ideas that advance your company’s business strategy.
  2. Shift Focus on Workforce Productivity
    In a downturn economy, long-term growth plans move to the backburner as focus shifts to short-term tactics that generate an immediate business impact. HR’s current goal should be to develop metrics that measure workforce productivity such as the ratio of dollars spent on employee-related costs against the dollar value of revenue produced. Identify productivity obstacles, develop plans to remove them rapidly, and provide employees and managers with intelligence and proven programs and tools to increase personal effectiveness and output.
  3. Define Metrics in Terms of Money
    Increasing revenue and cutting costs are top priorities for management. HR can support these goals by learning to convert traditional metrics such as downsizing or turnover rate into a dollar impact. For example, to demonstrate the hidden cost of drastic cuts on the training budget, you can report that the organization’s 5 per cent turnover rate translates to $10.2 million in lost productivity or revenue.
  4. Invest in Innovation
    The demand for innovation in products and services that meet to new market needs increases as contracted revenues and fierce competition influence business. Create an HR task force to work with mission-critical business teams. Identify and remove obstacles to innovation, and support teams with guidance and training.
  5. Control Labor Costs
    Armed with your renewed business perspective, evaluate and propose strategic initiatives to redeploy workers to busier or more profitable business segments. Investigate opportunities to: freeze hiring, eliminate overtime, cut temporary staff, reduce working hours, eliminate bonuses, delay raises, trim travel, and offer voluntary retirement packages.
  6. Retain Key Talent.
    Foster employee development building brand equity as an attractive employer. Whenever possible, promote from within. In addition to conducting “exit” interviews to learn why employees leave consider performing “stay” interviews to gain insights to talent retention. Check that employee benefits packages are aligned with information they have shared. The key is to be proactive, not reactive.

Whilst the future can not be predicted, the decisions you make today can help create it. You can leverage current circumstances to guarantee you are heard by the Boardroom by shifting from a process- to a more strategic-oriented mindset. Others have created their futures, so can you.

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