5 ways to give the HR function in your company a more strategic role

By Namita Thapar|28th Jun 2018
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“People-first approach”, “talent wins”…We have probably heard these buzzwords more times than we care to count, but do we really know what they mean?

In a nutshell, the quality of your people defines the destiny of your company. If this is indeed true, then why is it that the perception of HR is still that of an admin function – churning out the payslips every month, once-a-year dreaded and boring appraisals, and/or a platform to whine about the canteen or transportation policy! HR can, and must, be a strategic partner at the highest level.

So how can a company make its HR function more strategic? Here are a few pointers to get you started:

Image: Shutterstock

Right team

If all the IIM MBAs are only put in marketing and business development roles, how will HR be looked at as a serious career option? We need to hire the brightest and the best in the HR team to lead the workforce as business partners and leaders. The Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) must be a strong leader with an impressive resume.

Line function job rotation

HR leaders must be required to do a one-year stint in sales and manufacturing to truly understand and empathize with the issues and challenges of the business they support. Otherwise, they will always be looked at as outsiders who are merely consultants and don’t understand the business nuances. Similarly, leaders of tomorrow being groomed to take on senior positions must be required to do a stint in HR.

Important seat at the decision-making table

In his latest book Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First, management guru Ram Charan has asked for the CEO, CFO, and CHRO to form a governing council that meets regularly and presents to the board on important strategic matters. HR must be looked at as a strategic influencer, and that can only happen if the CHRO is known to have the CEO and Board’s attention and time.

Right resources

Every year during budgeting, the easiest budget to cut becomes the training and recruitment expense budget. This must be avoided at all costs. These areas must be looked at as investments and not merely costs, as this sends a strong signal of the HR’s importance in any organization. A leadership development programme will always yield higher RoI (return on investment) compared to a machinery of the same value!

Culture of dissent

HR can truly be the conscience keeper of your company. For that, they must be empowered to disagree and dissent, especially on matters where there is a choice to be made between topline and culture. Very often, when top management looks the other way at serious HR issues when a certain leader is bringing in the moolah, this sends a very wrong signal and almost always has been proven to be a disaster in the long-term value creation of the company. At times like this, HR must put its foot down, disagree, dissent, and discuss with top leaders so that culture always supercedes topline!

The CEO of the world’s largest auto company General Motors, Mary Barra, was the firm’s HR leader prior to her CEO role, which impacted her management style greatly. We need more Mary Barras for HR to get its rightful place in the sun!

Namita Thapar is Executive Director at Emcure Pharmaceuticals, a global pharmaceutical company, and CEO of Incredible Ventures, master franchisee of Young Entrepreneurs Academy, USA.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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