3 Ways HR Can Win the Keys to the C-Suite

by Debbie Shotwell | Posted | Industry Buzz

3 Ways HR Can Win the Keys to the C-Suite

Welcome to Part 3 of our “Making the Business Case for Talent Management” blog series! For those of you who are just joining us, we kicked off the series with Think Like a CEO: Tips for Getting Your Talent Initiatives Approved in which we shared a few tips for building more effective business cases for your proposed talent initiatives. In Part 2, we then shared advice for how to more effectively speak to (and garner buy-in from) each of the high-level executives involved in the decision-making process in What Keeps the C-Suite Up at Night: Focusing on the Priorities that Matter.

This week, we discuss how HR can become more of a strategic partner to the C-suite. If you ask any executive what their organization’s most valuable asset is, the response is often an emphatic “our people!” Despite the increasing number of executives that prioritize talent, however, HR is often still challenged with getting that elusive “seat at the table.” So what can talent leaders do to close the HR perception gap and be seen as a strategic business leader by the C-suite? Here are 3 steps to take within your HR organization:

1. Deliver actionable business insights

To be viewed as a strategic business partner, HR must evolve into a data-driven function. It has to be able to turn HR data into clear, actionable insights about the talent pipeline to the C-suite. These insights must also include prescriptive recommendations for talent initiatives that can improve efficiency, reduce costs and drive better business performance. By providing actionable business intelligence that helps drive improved decision-making and, ultimately, greater business impact, talent leaders can elevate the role of HR within the organization.

2. Collaborate to propose cross-functional solutions

As we discussed in last week’s post, one of the first steps to developing a compelling business case for any talent initiative is aligning your proposal to the priorities of each executive you’re aiming to get buy-in from. Taking that a step further, why not set up a meeting with each executive to fully understand their challenges and priorities, so that you can develop programs and proposals directly related to those challenges? By becoming solutions-oriented and ensuring HR is seen as a creative problem-solver—rather than a roadblock—HR will start to be included in more of those boardroom strategy discussions. If possible, schedule these executive discussions at least twice per year.

3. Link talent management to business outcomes

While executives often (unfairly) view HR as a cost center since it’s not perceived as impacting revenue in the same way that Sales or R&D might, the reality is that HR can and does make a very substantial impact on the bottom line. Without HR—and all of the functions it is responsible for such as recruiting, training and succession planning—the performance of the entire organization would suffer.

So, prove that HR can be a profit center by making that critical connection between your talent programs and business outcomes. Have metrics for each of your talent programs and regularly report on them. It’s also important to talk the language of the business by reporting on business metrics that resonate most with the C-suite, rather than “soft” HR metrics such as employee satisfaction.

While these tips are intended to help talent leaders close the HR perception gap in order to earn a seat at the executive table, the truth is that the C-suite also stands to benefit by including HR in executive strategy discussions. Organizations that view HR as a strategic partner actually realize greater organizational performance. In fact, a 2011 study by Bersin & Associates found that “business-integrated HR organizations” experience nearly 40 percent lower turnover, 38 percent higher employee engagement and more than twice the revenue per employee than do companies who view HR as a primarily transactional function. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Don’t miss next week’s post, the last in this series on making the business case for talent management. We’ll share some useful insights on how talent management drives better business performance.

Addressing The Strategic Issues Facing The C-Suite

Know what your CXOs worry about and get buy-in for great talent management processes.


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Addressing The Strategic Issues Facing The C-Suite

Know what your CXOs worry about and get buy-in for great talent management processes.


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