Every organization in America, no matter how big or how small, is only as strong as the people who work there. In fact, in a recent survey by Inc Magazine, most CEOs agreed that recruiting and retaining top talent is the top challenge facing their business.

And yet, the part of businesses that focuses on getting those people and keeping them motivated has consistently been undervalued, seen by some as a necessary evil. But the truth is the exact opposite, as a strong HR team is critical to success.

For years, HR has pushed for “a seat at the table,” i.e. to be given the same voice as sales, marketing or any other department. The fact is, not only should HR have a seat at the table, it should have one of the biggest chairs.

Why? Well, there are many reasons, but here are the top five:

They Create The Hiring Process

Granted, a human resources team generally doesn’t make the final hiring decision on most candidates; that falls to the particular department’s manager. But the HR team is responsible for the hiring process and assessing hires over time.

In the end, that’s the more crucial aspect of hiring, because the process is used time and time again. Quite frankly, the strength of that process will directly correlate to the strength of the company’s new hires, which is crucial for growth.

They Are Charged With Onboarding And Training

Once a person is hired, the challenge becomes two-fold: to both retain that person and ensure they develop over time. And a big part of that is onboarding and training.

Onboarding is critical, because it is a new employee’s first impression of the organization, and science proves that first impressions mean a lot. Zappos, for example, has a month-long onboarding process that includes having all new hires spend a week as a customer service agent. This is a great way to ingrain the customer-first attitude that separates Zappos from its competitors.

The exact trainings that follow are up to the discretion of the particular department, but a strong human resources team ensures that all employees are given the opportunity. Not only is this a great way to retain employees, it also increases their skills and makes them more valuable to the organization.

They Help Design Benefit And Compensation Plans

Training programs are nice, but let’s face it, people like money. And benefits. And a big part of HR is creating compensation and benefit plans that work for employees, while remaining cost conscious.

This is generally a role for CFOs as well (which is why finance and HR has forever been linked), but a strong HR team can take the lead on this. They can discover benefit packages that perhaps cost the same (or less) but better suit the needs of the company’s employees. Or lay out compensation plans that properly incentivize workers.

There is a push for pay-for-performance models, as an example, but those can go very badly, very quick. A strong HR team can design one that avoids those pitfalls and does what it intends to do: keep employees engaged and moving the company forward.

They Handle Disputes Along The Way

Retaining employees isn’t just about pay and training though. One of the biggest reasons people leave companies is because of their boss, and HR teams can do a lot to avoid that.

First off, a strong HR team should be proactive about this, instead of waiting for problems to explode and then trying to pick up the pieces. A great HR team understands what people are bad together, and keeps them apart, or finds solutions if there are no other options.

If your HR team is really good at this, people will come forward with their issues before they become disasters. Not only can this retain employees, it can also avoid lawsuits.

That’s good, because the average employment lawsuit award exceeds $490,000 and employment lawsuits have increased by 400 percent in the last 20 years, according to the ADP Research Institute.

They Get The Truth From Employees

Here’s an aspect that perhaps isn’t as tangible as the other four, but it is very, very useful. Frankly, management almost never gets the truth from employees. After all, employees generally want to impress their management team, not annoy them with complaints.

A good HR team though can get the truth. And the truth is very valuable, as companies need the truth to improve management structures, compensation plans and the organization as a whole. Without it, all companies will see is a bunch of smiles and high attrition rates.

Bottom Line: They Get The Right People And Get The Most Out of Them

A strong human resources team equals an engaged, talented workforce creating a successful company. Conversely, a weak human resources team equals the exact opposite – an unhappy and overwhelmed workforce charging towards bankruptcy.

That’s exactly why it is time to stop underrating HR, and give it the proverbial “seat of the table” its long deserved.

About VoiceGlance

VoiceGlance is a cloud-based hiring tool used by forward-thinking companies to hire smarter, instead of harder. Learn more here.