Forget Policies and Paperwork — the 5 Things Business Leaders Really Want From HR

Read beyond the headlines of any leading Human Resources or C-suite trade journal, and you’ll understand why talent has replaced technology to become the game changer for edging out competition in the 21st century. Despite the dialogue and debates covering this trend, one lingering question continues to raise the hackles of both business leaders and Human Resources practitioners — who takes primary ownership for acquiring and developing the arsenal of talent within the organization?    
It’s a classic chicken-and-egg story. Line managers can create the greatest positive impact on employee engagement and performance, but only if they are provided with the right tools and support to effectively lead their teams.  

The most successful HR professionals are moving beyond paperwork and policies and stepping forward into more strategic roles to deliver what business leaders need most today:
1.      Bold Innovator. It’s considered “table stakes” for HR to have the fundamentals of core services like benefits administration, compensation and compliance nailed down. While these processes are necessary to any business, they do little to support breakthrough performance or results. To deliver more value, the human resources function needs to spend more time accelerating operational improvement.[1] Forget turf-protecting activities that quash outside-the-box workforce management ideas; instead, HR should work closely with business leaders to help incubate pilot programs that have the potential to improve products, services or results.
2.      Talent Consultant. Outperforming today requires that managers have greater insight into every aspect of the business, including their people. Human Resources can deliver tremendous value by providing best practices in performance management, acting as the gatekeeper of cultural development trends, and providing relevant analytics and quantitative data to help managers gain efficiency and make better decisions.
3.      Trusted Adviser. Managing a team of people is challenging, even for seasoned leaders. When dealing with unique personalities, performance and work preferences, managers often feel they need to be all things to all people. What they really need is an objective consultant who can support their development to be the best leader possible. HR business partners earn respect as trusted leadership advisers when they provide constructive guidance that’s candid, honest and substantive. By asking for and responding to feedback in return, the HR practitioner also models and reinforces effective coaching techniques for the business leader.  
4.      Credible Expert. Backing up their deep and broad functional expertise, HR professionals must also have good business acumen and a sound understanding of their organization’s vision. With this blend of knowledge and experience, Human Resources can forge the critical link between the strategy of the business and the identification and development of talent to meet those needs. But earning a reputation as a credible expert among the management team doesn’t come easy. It requires HR partners to demonstrate:
·        Leadership courage under pressure
·        Unwavering conviction to champion employees
·        A sense of urgency in their actions
·        Commitment to achieving results
5.      Solution Strategist. More than anything, managers value HR partners who can help them achieve success for their teams. When involved in operational meetings or strategy sessions, they want HR to present relevant, straightforward and streamlined solutions, not risk-avoidance barriers or complicated science projects. HR professionals can lead through complexities by clarifying situations, distilling scenarios down to their root cause, and focusing on innovative outcomes that benefit both the business and its employees.

What do business leaders want from HR? Control over the tactical administration that comes with the role, yes. But there’s also a seat at the proverbial executive table for Human Resources professionals who embrace their strategic role as business leaders rather than policy practitioners.

[1]Power, Brad. Focus HR on Process Improvement. Harvard Business Review. February 2012.