How HR Can Get a Seat at the Executive Table and Actively Drive Transformation Projects

Image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock
Image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

Entire discussion forums address the question of why HR departments are not always treated with the highest respect in companies. Too far away from the business, doesn’t provide enough added value and is far too fluffy – these are just some of the stereotypes maintained by HR skeptics. Twenty years ago, Harvard Business Review presented a case study asking the following question: Why Doesn’t This HR Department Get Any Respect?

Yes, why is that – why do HR managers not receive the same respect as the sales manager, strategy officer or the marketing team? The good news for all HR staff: Improvements are in sight! While 15 years ago not even every second company had appointed a HR representative as a corporate leader, this is now the case for 70 percent. From a purely formal perspective, we can say that people related matters have made their way into the boardroom. But what contribution can HR make there?

HR Must Contribute to the Company’s Strategy

If you follow the debate about best practices from the HR industry, then HR should provide tangible added value that contributes to the overall success of the company. To do this, the HR department has to be at the table when strategic projects are on the agenda. However, how often do we see small strategy work groups that are seeking to improve the future of the company only get HR management on board when the most important decisions have already been made? Very often!

Every transformation project leads to organizational changes: The planned entry into new markets requires new skills and HR, for example, can make a name for itself through upskilling programs for the organization and recruiting of new, competent employees. Cost saving programs initiated by executives are designed to reduce overhead costs – it is precisely at this point that HR could come up trumps by implementing smart resource-sharing concepts enabled by global virtualization and digital collaboration.

There is only added value for the entire company when HR no longer passively reacts to new requirements, but instead takes an active leadership role in dealing with new challenges. HR staff are to be creative self-starters – capable designers who are always one step ahead of their own organization and management. However, there is a prerequisite for this: HR must know how things are going in their own organization.

Get Out From the Back Room to the Heart of the Action

Those who listen well know the score, and if you know the score, you can generate added value. HR is not a task to be done in dark back rooms, but rather on the frontline. When HR departments are right in the middle of the action and keep up to date with the latest developments in their organization, then valuable perspectives emerge that many other departments lack – perspectives that are extremely useful to the company as a whole.

Executives deal with the big questions concerning the future, specialist departments have their own clearly defined tasks and project teams work towards achieving their project goals. But who closes the gap that emerges in overlapping areas of management tasks, the day-to-day business in the departments and the project? Who takes a look at the organization as a whole and drives it forward? The answer to this is rather obvious: HR.

Listen to the Company Pulse With a Constructive Ear

Hardly any company can evade the big waves of transformation – the buzzword here is digitalization. Change is becoming a universal task for every organization. Linked to all of this is a growing level of support that HR managers need to provide: Constant change can cause friction in the organization – something which should only be left unattended up to a certain point.

HR plays a pivotal role in shaping an open corporate culture, where feedback from all areas of the organization helps to accelerate transformation. By providing and analyzing first-hand information ideally collected from all employees, HR can create real added value and actively shape the transformation of an organization that was previously rigid into an agile project organization. Now have a guess with which solution this works best. That’s right – with Surwayne 😉

With Surwayne, every HR department can have its ear on the company’s pulse anytime, anywhere. The feedback gathered through regular employee surveys can be used to gain insights and improvement areas, such as shortening decision paths in projects, optimizing the inter-divisional combination of agile project teams, or suggesting better processes, tools and training. Strategically speaking, HR takes on a crucial role and should therefore not be missing at any executive table.

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Jasmin Daneschumand

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