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How can HR influence the C-suite?

Posted on by from Buckinghamshire New University

How influential is HR in the boardroom, and how can it be more so? Tejal Fatania of Buckinghamshire New University, discusses how HR can louden its voice in the C-suite.

People may be purported to be the most important resource in an organisation, but the HR Director is rarely the most influential in the C-suite in the UK and US. Perhaps, ironically, some studies indicate that in Japan and India for example, HR is arguably the most powerful function. 

Challenging the ‘HR status quo’

To be influential in the C-suite, HR directors must let go of HR programmes and processes which do not add immediate or demonstrable long term value. For example, companies such as Juniper Networks, Gap and Deloitte, have changed the traditional performance appraisal system and implemented an alternative model which is based on real, on-going conversations. These organisations have challenged the traditional ‘HR status quo’. 

Challenging and changing the long established ‘sacred cow’ processes is not an admission of past failure, but an important acknowledgement of the need for ‘best fit’ approaches.

Future influences in the C-suite

Big data and data analytics are increasingly becoming part of the HR conversation. Organisations such as Microsoft mine their data in order to try to predict great hires. Some companies, such as IBM, have effectively used their database to establish high performing project teams. The result? Greater HR innovation and credibility in the boardroom.

Demonstrating real return on investment by HR has largely failed. The perception of it being a ‘cost centre’ rather than a revenue facilitator has long been a point of contention with HR directors. Mastering this will invariably enhance HR credibility in the C-suite.

Smarter engagement strategies continue to be called for in order to increase HR influence in the boardroom. 

Stakeholder mapping has been around for a while. Where such techniques are proactively used and followed through, C-suite stakeholders can be more readily influenced. 

This is not about establishing smart game plans or about political manoeuvres but about real stakeholder engagement and influence. The combined result? Greater HR credibility and influence in the C-suite. HR Directors will invariably become more influential in strategy formulation, boardroom level conversations and in developing relationships with the top executives.

Tejal Fatania

By Tejal Fatania

Buckinghamshire New University

Tejal is a senior lecturer in human resources management at Bucks Business School at Buckinghamshire New University. He has held senior HR roles at EY, Eon and Capgemini.

Buckinghamshire New University

Buckinghamshire New University

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