Often, employees of a corporation think human resources is on the side of the C-suite, while those in the C-suite feel human resources is on the side of employees. But when choosing sides, human resources needs to choose only one: success.
But many times this is seemingly not the case, said David Shedd, a senior corporate executive from Southern California. Instead, the focus of many companies’ HR departments tends to be on compliance, paperwork, and processing.
“That tends to be the default,” said Shedd, who recalled a meeting during which an HR senior vice president conducted a 55-minute presentation on succession plans. Shedd acknowledges the need for such programs, but feels strongly that HR should offer more.
“If HR wants to perform service functions, fine, but they will be treated as such,” he said. “In order for HR to get themselves heard, they need to be seen by the C-suite as partners.”
But how can an HR department transform itself from satisfying maintenance requirements to being a full partner in the direction of a company? Shedd’s advice is to establish a track record of following up in order to establish credibility and accountability.
Time and again, according to Shedd, HR departments roll out new initiatives (many of which are beneficial to a company’s profitability and bottom line), but they quickly lose steam when not all managers comply. Shedd believes HR professionals should play a larger role in holding employees accountable.
“Many times, HR would be a good marketing rep for saying a lot and not getting things done,” Shedd said. “Some HR people don’t follow up.”
However, HR departments have a built-in advantage: They see the organization from both the bottom and the top. But unfortunately, Shedd said, HR representatives often do not use this to their advantage. Instead, some HR managers revert to a “kiss up and kick down” mentality, in which they are too timid to tell the much-needed truth to executives, especially when it represents bad news.
These types of HR managers do their companies no favors, said Shedd. “It’s important to have someone in HR who’s respected. HR needs to be involved in big decisions.”
But enough HR departments lack vision that many senior executives have a hard time accepting HR as an equal partner. “To me, that’s where the real challenge is.”
The answer to this problem, said Shedd, must be addressed by independent leaders in the C-suite. They must actively empower HR to change its mindset, starting with the top people in HR.
“An independent HR manager is key—it’s [his] job,” said Shedd, who stressed the importance of holding everyone in the organization accountable. When HR professionals find themselves prodding both employees and executives, then they’re on the road to becoming a partner with the C-suite through accountability and shared vision.
“Having a proactive HR partner is something that’s very important,” he said. “Success in an organization is all about having the best people. Good HR people are focused on developing people for the good of the business.”