HR does have stakeholders, and we must cultivate them

HR professionals must meet the needs of staff at all levels and prove that the human resources department is a vital part of their organisation, writes our columnist

Chief executives, senior managers, line managers and employees all need different things from the human resources department, writes Gill Taylor
Chief executives, senior managers, line managers and employees all need different things from the human resources department, writes Gill Taylor

I read something on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development website recently that gave me a moment's pause because it was so off the wall. It was a question that challenged me to take a different perspective on delivering HR in our sector. The question was: who are your stakeholders in HR?

That made me stop and think because I don't often regard myself as having stakeholders – I have clients. But then I thought that, from the point of view of the in-house HR department, we actually do have stakeholders. Then I wondered who would be my stakeholders if I was an HR director at a charity, and what they might want from HR.

I came up with four distinct groups in a typical medium-to-large charity.

Chief executive They expect loyalty; they trust you to deliver the HR deal consistently, organisation-wide; they want to know which HR processes are really worth investing in and which can be cut; they want assessment and management of risk; they need realistic planning of change; and they want a truth-teller. They might also want someone who will pull them out of the fire if they have fallen into it all by themselves.

Senior management team They expect support on departmental HR issues; they want accurate, timely advice on questions and problems; they need scripts for difficult meetings. If I had my time over again as an in-house HR manager, I would invest most in these first two groups in terms of relationships and ensuring they treated me like a valued partner.

Line managers These are the powerhouses of any organisation. If I had resources to spend on development, I would always spend them here. They need coaching, hand-holding and investment in their emotional intelligence and performance management. They also want good data from me. I want to help them to be assertive with staff at the right times, and to really know the HR practices and procedures and stick to them.

Employees They expect fairness, a clear, explicit contract and delivery of the deal in the workplace. HR might also take responsibility for highlighting employees' needs and keep them engaged with the charity by providing honest and timely communication. Employees also expect targeted training.

What happens if we ignore the needs of stakeholders or don't segment our HR focus in this way? We run the risk of being perceived as a drain on the organisation, of not pulling our weight, of being irrelevant.

HR is worth its weight in gold, but I don't think we value ourselves enough. A better way to demonstrate this is to explicitly work out who our stakeholders are, then build trust and loyalty to show just how valuable HR is.

Gill Taylor is a sector HR consultant

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