New years typically bring new challenges with them, but the HR world has outstanding issues to deal with. Making some new year’s resolutions might help, says Jan Hills of HR With Guts.
So Christmas 2006 is over, and the usual sluggish start to a new year is underway. Some of us will have made personal resolutions for the coming 12 months. Some of us might have made professional resolutions, too. This is never a bad thing. And the HR world especially could do with setting itself some important goals.
The truth is, the challenges facing many HR functions in 2007 are very much the same as they were when we kicked off 2006. And they can be summed up in just two words: influence and credibility. How can HR professionals take a seat at the top table and be involved in strategic level decision-making? How can HR professionals get other parts of the business to take them seriously and understand why they’re suggesting what they’re suggesting?
So, with these challenges in mind, what should your HR resolutions be if you’re really going to make a difference in 2007?
Resolution one: use the language of the business, not the jargon of HR
No good comes from taking HR terminology out of the world of HR. Talk to line managers in their own language – the language of the business. Yes, we all know they talk jargon, too. But introducing another opaque vocabulary just distances you from the business.
Resolution two: think ahead
Traditionally, the HR function tends not to be proactive: they wait for an issue to arise before doing something about it. So scan the business. Scan the competition. Keep an eye on the legal and regulatory environment. Be aware in advance of the things that might impact on the business – and make suggestions about how to proactively respond, or opportunities be exploited to benefit the bottom line of the business. Of course you can’t anticipate every development, but sitting around on your bottom is not the way forward.
Resolution three: put yourself in other people’s shoes
All too often, HR is not seen as contributing strategically to a business. This is partly because it doesn’t see things from other people’s point of view. So really understand the line managers’ perspective. Talk to them, and find out what their challenges actually are. When you make a suggestion, explain what it will do for them, as opposed to what it will do for you.
Resolution four: do a few things really well
This is so important: many HR functions shouldn’t take on too much.
I’ve come across cases where HR has had as many as 30 separate projects going on – in addition to everyday business. The fact is, no HR department can deliver so many projects in a quality way. Line managers get completely swamped with new information, new processes, and new procedures. They don’t understand what the relevance of an initiative is, but more importantly, nor how it relates to all the other things HR’s doing. When HR’s going off in all kinds of directions, it’s hard to take it seriously.
So keep your agenda short. Stick to a few things that will really make a difference to the business. And on that note, I’ll keep the number of resolutions to just four. Just do them well!
And remember, don’t expect things to change overnight. Most line managers – but not all – have never worked with an HR person who contributes strategically. So some education needs to take place, and benefits demonstrated. Why are HR issues important? What difference are they actually going to make to the business and to the bottom line? Why is HR more than just ‘nice to do because it’s about people’? Countering the sceptics will take time.
These are the ongoing challenges most HR people face. So make those resolutions, and strive to be in a better position at the end of 2007.