Human Resources: Claim your seat at the table
by Sara Jones
This is part one of a two part series.
The role of human resources manager is challenging. Not only do you have to find the right people to hire to keep job openings in the company filled, but you also have a myriad of other responsibilities related to compliance, people management, and benefits. Not to mention wellness! This can result in a lot of work that sometimes goes unnoticed. Understandably, you want your contributions recognized and to have a say in strategic decisions, especially when decisions impact employees at the company.
I’ve spent over a decade mentoring women in technology and other men and women professionals. You probably hear from employees you work with that they’d like to be valued. The same applies to HR professionals, where they sometimes feel undervalued. This desire to be heard and valued is something all professionals want. Being a CEO is a newer opportunity for me, which means I’ve spent most of my career trying to show my impact to another CEO or managing partner, than actually being a CEO. So here are some tips I’ve learned along the way. I also teach these tips to employees at ApplicantPro because I want them to embrace their abilities to make an impact.
A CEO has three jobs:
1) Hire the right talent
2) Focus on profitability
3) Sell, sell, sell
Speak the CEO’s language.
When I became a CEO, one of my mentors told me, “A CEO has three jobs: 1) hire the right talent, 2) focus on profitability, and 3) sell, sell, sell.” So to me, this means that the CEO is the chief talent officer, the chief business officer, and the chief revenue officer. In theory, most CEOs should care first and foremost about the talent at their company. But the reality is that the last two (profitability and revenue) are usually their highest priorities. It’s important that you know which priorities your CEO has, and how you can support those priorities.
Once you understand those priorities, you can find ways to make your efforts more visible to the executive team. Here’s an example of showing value for each of these priorities:
1. Hire the right talent: Have a conversation with the CEO, executives, and other managers to understand what they are looking for in talent. You will find that different departments have different cultures. You could ask them, “Give me an example of your top performing person.” Then interview the top performer to determine what makes them great at their job. Assessments can also give you insight into a person’s characteristics that help them succeed. The reason I’m a fan of assessments is that oftentimes, a person’s innate talents are hard for that person to describe.
In StrengthsFinders 2.0, the book describes strengths as coming so naturally to a person that it’s like breathing air; you don’t realize you are doing it. Working in partnership with department leadership to identify valued skill sets can give you a noticeable advantage.
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2. Focus on Value: A CEO has to be constantly aware of the financial state of the business. Employees are often a company’s highest cost. One way to think about hiring is from a value basis. Every person at a company should bring value. So, a strategic HR professional will understand costs associated with onboarding and training new hires until they reach a competency level.
Another way you can show value is to identify alternative ways to hire key talent. This can include part time employees, work from home employees (where appropriate), contractors, and consultants. Showing that you can get added value with lower cost is something a CEO would most likely welcome. Of course, it always depends on a company culture. In addition, become an expert on the “hidden” skills of people at your company, that might not be required in their particular job role. For example, you might find that an employee in customer support has graphic design skills. He might be willing to give a few of his work hours toward a different cross-functional project that benefits the company, allowing him to shine in a different way and create some cross-collaborative wins.
View your job as more than just filling job openings. Be an ambassador of the company vision.
3. Champion the company vision: The CEO is constantly selling the company vision – to investors, to her board, to partners, to clients, to customers, to key hires, and anyone who can bring value to the company. View your job as more than just filling job openings. Be an ambassador of the company vision. Know how to find people who will fit the culture of the company. Importantly, know how to filter out the ones who will be disruptive to the culture, and eventually become difficult to manage. With a history of success and great retention, you will show your CEO and other executive team members that you are a contributing member of the strategic team.
Part of speaking a CEO’s language is to use data to show that your strategies are creating cost savings to the company. Executives love to be able to quickly see which strategies are working and which are not. They are busy people and don’t have time to read long reports. Become an expert at showing a few charts or graphs on how a strategy is saving money, time, or resources. This does require some proactive learning if you aren’t comfortable with business data. By applying a few of these tips above, your contributions can become more noticeable.
Part 2 coming soon.
For more on this subject, check out our webinar, Bridging the Gap: How to Think Like a CEO.
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