Why Execs Don’t Think You’re a Team Player (And How You Can Set Them Straight)

August 21, 2012 Darcy Jacobsen

Human PyramidA recent report out from research firm The Hackett Group is sure to raise the hackles of any self-respecting HR leader. According to the report: Cracks in the Foundation: Closing the Critical Skills Gap Undermining Business Capabilities, “business services organizations — including finance, IT, procurement, and even HR itself — are seeing dangerous deficits in talent and skills, and are highly dissatisfied with the level of support they receive from HR on talent issues.”

Talent crisis

In fact, companies in the study were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with HR support for business services nearly 70% of the time, on average. 79% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with HR support for collaboration and knowledge sharing, and 70% dissatisfied/very dissatisfied with HR support for retention.

That’s an extremely disappointing set of statistics, when you consider the full court press HR has been in to try and add value to organizations, lately.

According to the report, the source of this dissatisfaction is the difficulty companies are having with the challenge of finding and retaining top talent. “In large part, because HR and business services leaders are not collaborating,” said Hackett Group spokesperson Harry Osle in a press release. “This is a dangerous situation with the potential to cripple companies that don’t address it quickly.”

The Hackett Group study said that “one key explanation for HR’s inability to effectively support talent management needs of business services is that HR has had a hard time adapting to its changing mission of enabling business performance.”

I would argue that while this may be the case in some companies, it is as likely in some cases that HR organizations are enabling business performance—they are simply not communicating that back in a language that business leaders in other departments can understand.

So how can you show executives that you’re adding value to the organization and aligning your department with organizational goals? Here are three ideas to get you started:

Ramp up the Two-Way Communication

Apparently many organizations expect HR to be clairvoyant. Because according to the report: “few HR organizations have a dedicated business partner role responsible for communicating and understanding the talent management needs of business services functions like finance, IT and others.” So rather than starting by talking, start by asking and listening. Understand what the business expects and needs from you, and then work on letting them know that you’re providing it. (And of course, actually DO provide it.) But that last part is important and often overlooked. It’s easy to assume that the business knows what you’re doing and why. Don’t assume anything. Make sure that you’re keeping senior leaders informed. Offer regular communication that reflects what you are doing to move the needle for the business.

Share your Data

Are you regularly making data available to executives that enable them to better measure and manage your talent and your culture? You should be. When mined properly, HR data can be a treasure trove of information about the organization. And this goes beyond exit interviews. Engagement and enablement surveys are a start. Recognition data is another terrific way to provide actionable data to senior leadership. Crowdsourced recognition data gives you insights about who your behavioral outliers are that is invaluable to the performance management process. Recognition data also holds the key to understanding which of your organizational values are thriving and which are floundering, department by department, and which groups are working well together—all highly valuable information for senior leaders.

Show your ROI

Many HR initiatives get lumped together as intangibles because we fail to adequately show how they are impacting the bottom line. Where you can, you should be offering senior leaders strong business arguments for how your activities provide ROI to your company. This both proves the critical nature of the HR mission and proves to leaders that you understand the business and its needs, and are working toward organizational goals. (Here’s a piece we recently put together on how Strategic Recognition programs impact the bottom line.)

Ultimately, all of these suggestions boil down to effective communication. We need to get a bit better at listening, a bit better tooting our own horns and a bit better at speaking the language of senior executives.

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