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Judith Germain

The Maverick Paradox

Maverick Catalyst

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Employee experience: HR needs to know its impact if it wants to improve its influence

HR must seize the opportunity created by the pandemic to gain greater influence among senior leaders.

From as far back as 2015 there has been a movement towards hiring a ‘Head of Employee Experience’, to augment the HR department. Their responsibility has been to demonstrate true authentic leadership, ensuring that the stories told to the customer are the same stories told to the employees. This is to ensure there isn’t such a disconnect between the two that it makes social media headlines, causing untold reputational damage to the organisation.

The pandemic is reinvigorating this desire for a Head of Employee Experience, as organisations look to protect the mental wellbeing of their employees and ensure they avoid the ‘Great Resignation’. This requires a shift of focus for the role, to one of ensuring that engagement and meaningful work in flexible environments become the mainstay of the organisation.

One could argue that HR directors who have the right level of impact and influence within their organisation have always been able to address employee experience issues with the board and senior leadership team. They are equipped to make real strides towards aligning business strategy with the employee experience, embedding it through the recruitment, performance and reward strategy.

It’s only since the pandemic – when the global workforce is considering how it feels working for their organisation and whether the organisation deserves its labour – that the board and senior leadership team are turning to HR for advice on company strategy and how to align its business objectives to its people.

The HR professional who can make spirited, innovative and strategic suggestions that span the operational running of the business (not just the people aspects), is one that has the ear of the CEO.

All organisations, not just the enlightened few

To take advantage of this global change of opinion (no more jokes about HR really standing for the Human Remains department!) HR professionals need to be aware of their own impact before they can influence others. They also need to help the board and all leadership teams understand and demonstrate their own impact as well.

Employee experience is an area that has always comprised the role of HR, although perhaps HR professionals have not had the impact and influence to make this obvious, adn are therefore missing an opportunity to boost thier reputation.

When everyone operates from a place of authenticity and competence, it becomes easier for the whole workforce to align their own personal values and objectives towards the organisation’s. This consequently enables purposeful work, employee engagement and organisational success.

Whilst the pandemic is driving more compassionate responses from the senior team and the board, it would be remiss of HR professionals to not consider that these groups need a compelling reason to change. With the organisations I work with, this compelling reason often occurs when the senior teams are shown the collective impact that they make on the organisation as well as a thorough understanding of their own individual impact.

However, to enable this shift to take place, HR needs to be a credible, equal partner/advisor to the business. In fact, the HR professional who can make spirited, innovative and strategic suggestions that span the operational running of the business (not just the people aspects), is one that has the ear of the CEO or senior leadership team. They have demonstrable impact and influence. 

A starting point for assessing your impact and influence

Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Why are you working in HR and this company in particular?

  • What unique solutions can you provide for this organisation that another HR professional can’t?

  • How do you impact the organisation (in regard to people issues as well as business ones?)

  • How influential are you?

  • Do your peers voluntarily go to you prior to issues becoming real problems or when strategising a change in their department?

  • Could you run the Ops function if the Operations Manager/Director was ill? If not, why not?

  • Can you articulate your value to your workforce, department, peers, managers and the organisation?

  • Are you universally trusted?

Of course this is not an exhaustive list, I recognise that this is just a microcosm of what makes up your impact and influence (often when working with organisations I profile their individual and collective impact when we are trying to improve their leadership capability, or implement a change initiative). 

However, the above questions are part of the informal pondering of the senior leadership team when they are considering your influence and the impact that you make to the organisation.

I have found that one of the best ways for HR practitioners to demonstrate their capability in this area, is to enable the leaders to understand their own individual and collective impact (including the HR professional’s impact, of course!).

In the ever changing complex world we find ourselves in, now is the time to take advantage of the senior leadership team’s desire to improve their own impact and ability. They recognise that to survive and thrive they have no choice.

What do you really need to accelerate individual and team impact?

When looking to accelerate impact, HR leaders should consider these three actions: gain clarity, utilise your impact, apply your core talent.

1. Be clear on the core proposition of the individual and/or the team

  • What is it that you or the team do?

  • What solutions do you provide?

  • What stories do you tell that attract others to your mission or align objectives?

  • What is the purpose of the work that you do (This needs to go deeper than HR, Finance or Ops)

2. Identify your natural proclivity and apply your impact profile to the work that you or the team does

  • How can you apply your impact individually and collectively so that you and the organisation exceed stakeholder expectations?

  • How do you align, gain trust and influence the customers, workforce and organisation?

3. Understand and align the core talent of you and your team

  • What are your success strategies?

  • How do you bring all three concepts together cohesively to make a real integrated difference to the working environment and operational/financial viability of the organisation?

Ultimately, to obtain the right level of impact to influence their organisation, HR practitioners must enable all leadership teams to understand and demonstrate their individual and collective impact. 

HR professionals should also work on their own ability to lead, understanding who they are, why they do what they do and how to take that knowledge and impact the world around them. This is not only beneficial for the whole organisation, but also personally satisfying for the individual.

Interested in this topic? Read ‘Spearheading a more human-centred approach to business impact.’

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Judith Germain

Maverick Catalyst

Read more from Judith Germain

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