I’m honored to have been asked to speak at NEHRA’s annual conference on the topic of changing the perception of HR leadership. As someone who spent the first two and a half decades of my career as an HR professional, I truly believe in the value this discipline can offer to an organization.
Unfortunately, human resources has garnered a reputation as the ‘policy police.’ These professionals take their role seriously, ensuring that the organization is complying with laws and regulations, and utilizing internal processes and tools, which is laudable. However, they have become so focused on this aspect of the role that at times the business feels as though HR is speaking a foreign language.
Early in my career my CEO told me that he expected me to know the business as well as he did. Since then I’ve had the good fortune of working with senior business leaders, across a variety of industries, who appreciated my efforts to learn the business, and who took my recommendations seriously because I was able to ground them in business logic and speak their language.
Most organizations would readily admit that their most important asset, their competitive advantage, is their people. And, human resources should have unique purview into the people within the organization, their strengths, their aspirations, and their motivations. At the same time, HR must be immersed in the business of the organization. They should know how the business works, the competitive landscape, and emerging trends in the industry. This powerful combination of understanding the business landscape and the talent within the organization (and within the industry) positions HR leadership to counsel the business on how to leverage the people in the organization both for competitive advantage and for personal fulfillment.
HR leadership does not need to be an oxymoron. During my time at the NEHRA conference I hope to help HR professionals think about their roles differently, harness their leadership potential, and shape a new vision for HR.