HR is worthy of a place at an organisation's top table

Our columnist, Gill Taylor, explains why HR is as vital as finance

Gill Taylor
Gill Taylor

There is a suspicion among HR directors in the voluntary sector that they are not as valued by the chief executive as the finance director.

Given that staff are usually our greatest resource - and we spend most of the budget on their costs - I'd like to put the case for the two roles to be treated as equally important. So what would HR directors like from their chief executives?

First, recognition that HR is a profession. Gaining a qualification through the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development training programme takes at least two years of nearly full-time study, and there are many areas of expertise. Lots of people think that they know how to do HR, but it takes a skilled, experienced professional to deliver a quality, low-risk service to an organisation. The chief executive has hired a specialist who can deal with people - and so should let us do it.

Inner circle

Second, a place for HR at the top table, and even in the inner circle. In this job, we use our expertise and discretion and aim to find workable, tried and tested solutions for each HR issue. That means the chief executive can talk to us - in fact, we would rather they spoke to HR before they put any change programme in place or agreed anything of that kind with heads of departments. This might sound intrusive and nosy to some chiefs - isn't it their job to run the organisation as they wish to?

Well, all I can say is that they had better rehearse the problem areas before they become a big headache that could have been avoided.

Instead of viewing HR as potentially obstructive, chief executives should instead see us as managing risk for them.

HR is often criticised for not being strategic enough, or for not taking the time to know the organisation. I have not found that to be true in the voluntary sector, but I do find that HR is often not given the chance to contribute before the stage is set, so we can't give advice at the right time.

HR should be able to tell chief executives when they are heading for choppy waters. They might not get the solution to an issue that they want, but at least HR can usually help them to find a safe path through the hurricane.

Third on the list would be taking time to develop a trusting relationship. We need to network with people inside the organisation - the more managers trust us, the sooner they will learn to be proactive in HR.

Fourth, chief executives are supposed to lead, communicate and inspire. HR can help them to avoid getting bogged down in micro-management. Chief executives should take the time to understand their staff and take them with them on any change journey. Good HR is so much easier to achieve when people are led well and treated as being central to the organisation's goals.

Gill Taylor is a sector HR consultant

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