HR earning their “seat at the table” has been a hot topic for a while now. How will HR ever get to participate in business decisions and be seen as a valuable member of the leadership team? By being the HR person who demonstrates their value! Gaining credibility and building rapport across the business is crucial before you can influence others on your management team. Want to be asked to help make decisions that affect people and processes? I think sometimes we all need a refresher on how to be qualified for that role. It’s easy to get buried in the processes, systems, and day-to-day tasks that are required of us.
People Are The #1 Priority
When you start an HR role, it’s easy to dive right into the pile of paperwork the last person left for you. As Steve Browne mentioned in his #SHRM18 session, be the HR person people talk TO, not about. Being available and welcoming is a staple to start building relationships. You have to be approachable. And you want to be approached, right? If people don’t talk to you, how do you learn what’s going on? People have to know that you listen and you care. Why does this help you get a seat at the table? When your management team is getting together to discuss a business change that will affect people and processes, they’ll invite you because they know you know a lot about how the employees feel and work.
Know the Business, Not Just HR
I think this is something HR people preach to each other that they do, but how often do you set aside intentional time to sit/talk with people and learn their roles? You may be a fantastic HR person, and you’ll be approached when there’s a payroll or benefits issue, but you want to be sought out for your input on bigger decisions, not just tactical work. If you don’t know how the work that brings in the revenue gets done, how can you bring value on recruiting processes, incentive processes, etc.?
Have a Voice
I’m sure you’ve been looped into a meeting where you were asked your input on a new employee contest, or what options should be available in the vending machines. I know I have. Though these seem like trivial decisions, making the right decision the first time can minimize a lot of potential future headaches. If asked a question you don’t instantly know, that’s okay! But instead of just saying “I’m not sure,” confidently state your initial reaction to the idea but that you want to look into a few things or think about it more before moving forward. Set a time that you’ll get back to them by depending on the complexity of the issue (e.g., end of the day, end of the week, etc.) If you need to check with other HR pros or resources, that’s fine! It’s good to convey that you have resources to consult to make sure the team makes the best decision, and that it benefits everyone in the way it’s intended.
Develop Personal Relationships, Not Just Work Relationships
Take your managers to lunch and get to know them aside from their day-to-day work. Where did they work before? What hobbies interest them? How did they get into their current field? You will learn a lot. Don’t forget to share your background as well. They won’t know the experience you bring to the table and what you can help them with if you don’t share. The more your team knows about you, the more likely you’ll be reached out to when there’s an opportunity. Similar to networking.
It’s a Two-Way Street
When you do take your seat at the table, you shouldn’t just be telling managers what they should be doing. Going back to number 1, you should create the environment for the results you want to get. You can’t only show up or be around when you have something to say. It’s easier to influence others when they know you well and know you have everyone’s best interests in mind, not just HR.