Would you be willing to ask your executives whether they consider you a strategic partner? Who in our profession would be willing, frankly, given the push back we've endured in the past? Especially in small companies where the executives themselves are struggling to be strategic, although they would never admit it.
The current take on effective leadership in our tumultuous 21st century is that the CEO, CFO and CHRO should be seen as the "central brain trust" in each organization, since the pressure to solve complex, fluid talent requirements will continue to mount. This scenario places compensation at the heart of business strategy development -- as well as your company's financial performance -- for the upcoming decade, at the very least.
This mindset is the inspiration for my recent Compensation Cafe article, "Setting the Stage to Become Their Strategic Partner" and today's article, which is a basic how-to intro. We in HR are finally, clearly, part of the solution. It's a great place to be, but we've also got to realize that we'll underperform if the CEO and CFO don't come to see us as a required part of the solution. HR involvement in strategic decision making should become SOP, in the same way that certain executive deliberations don't really count unless the CEO (or the in-house attorney) is in the room.
If the HR leadership goal is to educate your execs about how your company can set its sights higher when it comes to talent acquisition and management, this time of year is especially convenient for planning efforts if you are on a calendar-year schedule. You have some time leeway now that incentive work is completed, and can shift to improving and strengthening your strategic leadership competencies and those of your team.
Professional consultants would start this type of initiative by interviewing all your execs and then turning their findings into a picture of where your company is going. This framework would be confirmed, then used as a reference for ongoing strategic decision-making. Few HR practitioners would easily win support for such an interview project, though, since we're supposed to have those insights at our fingertips. It's ironic that formal information-gathering on leadership views would provide you (and the rest of leadership) with insights, but that the effort would diminish your stature.
Instead, strengthen your leadership abilities by shifting HR staff focus from problems to solutions. Start by identifying the fixes that will clearly make compensation practices more effective (here are examples of potential communication improvements), but don't limit your attention to current HR processes. Project where the company is going in the next two to three years. Consider what's on the CEO's mind and how much change the CFO believes you can afford. Given those business priorities, what are the talent needs of the immediate future going to be?
You should develop your own opinions and become alert to upcoming changes that will require HR support, especially based on your company's growing reliance on technology. Look at the gap between what you are doing today and what the company will need from you two or three years from now. How are you going to address that gap and how soon can you start to prepare?
This is not to say that you can decide on your own how HR will do things differently in the future. Instead, realize that to put HR directly into that brain trust, you need to be ready (on any day) to influence your company's future. It takes a set of talking points that you and your colleagues have made ready for any and every discussion, based on thoughtful HR departmental deliberations and ongoing analyses that are regularly updated to reflect your company's strategic shifts.
Margaret O'Hanlon, CCP brings deep expertise to discussions on employee pay, performance management, career development and communications at the Café. Her firm, re:Think Consulting, provides market pay information and designs base salary structures, incentive plans, career paths and their implementation plans. Earlier, she was a Principal at Willis Towers Watson. Margaret is a Board member of the Bay Area Compensation Association (BACA). She coauthored the popular eBook, Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communications, a toolkit that all practitioners can find at https://gumroad.com/l/everythingiscommunication.