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How Do I Unite Leaders Divided On HR's Value?

I was recently promoted to handle all human resources at our 100-employee company, but I also still serve as top assistant to our company president. This has sparked a debate, with some senior leaders arguing we don't need a fulltime HR function. Our president now isn't sure whether to keep the HR function or just keep me as his assistant. How do I convince top brass that HR is more than just keeping track of personnel files and benefits? — Caught in the Not-So-Friendly Crossfire, HR director, publishing/communication/advertising, Owosso, Michigan
April 17, 2013
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Related Topics: Your HR Career, HR Services and Administration, The HR Profession, HR & Business Administration, Dear Workforce
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Dear Caught:

The good news: You were promoted.

The bad news: You were promoted.

I am mainly saddened whenever I hear this dilemma from human resources leaders, be they veteran or new to the profession. Gaining the respect and influence you deserve as senior HR leader is difficult if you also serve as top assistant to the company president.

Attempting to balance these two very different roles will only dilute the impact and effectiveness of the HR function. Here's why:

  • Your peers and the associate population will be confused about your primary role and position in the company
  • Your will not be perceived by peers, managers and associates as an independent, objective, and fair-minded if your duties also include administrative duties for the company president
  • Managing the HR function is a full-time and value-producing role that requires you to stay in touch and on top of complex issues, including benefits, labor, compensation, learning and morale

Your senior leaders likely know about current business challenges and imperatives needed for profitable growth. They probably also have metrics in place for specific goals in such areas as revenue, cost, productivity and customer loyalty.

To make a case for strategic HR leadership, you need to demonstrate how dedicating someone to lead the HR function will add value to one or more of these business metrics. For example:

  • How many dollars would be saved if unwanted turnover is reduced by 15 percent?
  • How does implementing the right kind of just-in-time training lead to measurable productivity gains?
  • How do you reduce your "cost to hire" and what is the net benefit of hiring smarter and faster?
  • How does strengthening managerial and employee cultures boost your brand and enhance customer loyalty?
  • How does improving your employment brand attract top-level talent and improve your productivity?

There are many other examples that can be relevant for your business, and the key to making the persuasive case for a full-time HR leader is being accountable for results. You need to be willing to put your job on the line if you don't add measurable value. If a sales professional consistently misses quota targets, they can and should be held accountable. The same should be true HR professionals. Take accountability for the goals and metrics you establish for your HR function, and soon more respect will come your way.

SOURCE: Richard Greenberg, president, The BreakThru Alliance, Marina del Rey, California, February 11, 2013

LEARN MORE: Please read how the advent of "big data" may help HR practitioners play a more important strategic role.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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