19/02/2015

By Rita Trehan


I’m issuing a call to action for HR leadership: we have a unique opportunity to be the important leaders we’ve always wanted to be.

It’s our time. This time, more than any other time.

It’s time for us to stop questioning what we know, and start questioning what we need to do.

We are the absolute experts in the processes and procedures we own; our functional expertise is unquestionable. As a former Fortune 200 CHRO, I was so proud of our team’s ability to execute flawlessly with our tools. Governance, compliance, recruiting, compensation, benefits, organisational design — ask anyone and they’ll say HR owns their processes with confidence. This is why the negative perception of the talent within our ranks, despite our best efforts, is so intensely frustrating.

Across the media and in closed doors around the country, our good name continues to be besmirched. Some of us are in all the right meetings; some of us are standing outside the door reacting to what happens just beyond the handle. We meet all our divisional goals, but we’re told we’re not picking up the slack for the company. As the owners of the very lifeblood of the company, it seems inconceivable the body could be less than thrilled if the circulatory system is running.

I’d like to suggest that it’s not what we’re doing, but perhaps it’s the way we’re doing it. I don’t mean another reorganisation, and I don’t believe anything will be solved with another payroll system. I think we need to see HR as the heart of the company, and with that imagery, I believe that it’s the way with which we deliver the resources that needs to change.

It’s time for us to stop being functional experts and act as business leaders. As the heart of the company, we own the supply of what keeps it moving, but we share the goal of its success — it’s survival— with the other systems we support. When potential danger is perceived, the heart pumps extra blood to flee; if it detects injury, white blood cells are deployed to ward off infection. What if we similarly staked our success on our clients’ ability to thrive?

HR is uniquely poised to utilise our tools to keep the company healthy and agile through any circumstances. We are the business leaders that can accomplish such tasks.

It’s not what we’re delivering; it’s how we deliver it. We have to think of HR’s Chief Officer as the CEO of Human Resources, and all of us are owners of strategic business units. Our budget should be managed as a P&L: every time we increase capacity for our clients represents return business and increased profit, while every time we navel gaze, we create outsourcing opportunities that result in a loss of business. Perceiving our existence in this manner ensures mutual respect from our partners.

We own capacity, the ability to enable resources for the company to thrive and survive. When the body gets in trouble, it’s the circulatory system that handles attack. We should be the first line of defence and the early warning system for the corpus of our corporate world.

We own this. Let’s understand and take advantage of it. It’s our way into the C-suite and beyond.