I was talking to the human resources director of one of Dubai's well-known organisations and asking about the perception that people in their organisation had about HR.
He went on to say "if you want to be thanked for what you do at work, don't go into HR!"
People in HR need to "get over the fact that they won't get a lot of recognition and that if they think that they are going to be thrown flowers and gifts for their work in HR then they should get out of the function now", he observed.
It made me think that HR leaders elsewhere across the world often echo this same sentiment that their efforts frequently go unnoticed unless something goes wrong; in fact most aspects of the head office functions that support an organisation achieve its' success (such as marketing, IT, procurement, HR, etc.) are not alone in this regard. This just seems to be the reality for most of these support functions.
If you think about it if you work in an IT department, the business doesn't think about what you do until the IT system crashes and other departments are unable to do their work effectively! There are many elements of HR that are only noticed if things or events go pear-shaped — that's the reality!
Having said this, many corporate initiatives and smaller scale achievements have been realised through HR and organisations will reap the benefits of the functions hard work although HR will not be at the forefront of the successes.
So why is that? HR needs to start letting people working in their organisation know what they are doing and how they are impacting upon the ‘bottom line'. Start your influence process by understanding the key individuals you are trying to influence. Start with the CEO and the senior management team.
They didn't get to the top without being 100 per cent focused on what needs to be done and without developing their own agenda and if HR is truly going to help them accomplish their goals, HR has to first understand what gets their attention. This is especially difficult, but still possible, if you are in a low-profile department like HR.
Language of business
One key aspect is that HR has to start talking the language of the business; that doesn't mean talking about HR policies and procedures but start talking about the commercial challenges (increased profitability, improved efficiency or service, etc.).
To the senior management team, almost every decision requires a "business case" and because they have learned to think in analytical terms and to quantify everything, HR has to do the same. I have found that the prime reason that so many HR departments are constantly being cut by financially driven initiatives is not wholly because HR hasn't proved its' value but because firstly HR does not "show off what it has done" and market itself internally and secondly, that HR fails to provide quantifiable proof of their strategic value in a manner and language that the senior management team understand: namely financially-based savings and income benefits.
There are many HR professionals who hate the idea of self-promotion. The reality is that all support services and professionals need to be on the front foot and say "look what we have done for your business. You now have a commercial competitive advantage because of the clever stuff we have done" ...or words to that effect.
Dave Millner is the Consulting Director of Kenexa EMEA and Director of Kenexa HR Institute