The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Gauging HR’s Strategic Role: Survey shows progress, but more can be done

What can HR do to make more progress as a strategic partner working side by side with top-level management?That elusive “seat at the table” human resources professionals have been craving for years is now a reality in some circles but still a challenge in others. A recent study by Business and Legal Resources shows that HR professionals responding to a recent survey are not making the progress we might have hoped. So, what can HR do to make more progress as a strategic partner working side by side with top-level management?

The “2016 Strategic HR/HR Metrics Survey” from BLR referenced above gathered responses from 843 participants representing an array of industries, business types, organizational sizes, and locations. Among other things, the survey asked HR professionals about their strategic influence within their organizations and about their priorities for 2017. The survey results show that 42.8 percent of those surveyed say that they have “an influential seat within the inner circle.” Another 27 percent say they have a “major role outside the inner circle.”  Those numbers are in contrast to the 23.7 percent of respondents who say they have only a minor role and 5 percent reporting they have “no role” in determining strategy.

The survey also explored how HR professionals think they are perceived by management. Survey results show that 35.1 percent of the respondents believe they are viewed as “a strategic partner,” and an additional 29.5 percent believe they are seen as a “credible business partner.” Other participants were more pessimistic, with 30.8 percent saying they are viewed as a “provider of administrative functions” and 2.2 percent as “not really needed” or “unnecessary/window dressing.”

Getting in the Driver’s Seat

Especially when organizations are growing, HR and senior management need to be on the same page. Growth centers on the organization’s people, and that’s where human resources professionals come in.  Without HR in the driver’s seat, growth efforts can fall flat. People are the backbone of every business. If you don’t think so, look at your annual budget. Generally, over 50 percent of expenses have to do with employees – including the rent to house them, benefits to keep them happy, and insurance products to meet your compliance obligations. Someone has to be watching out for these things.  HR Hacks, the most recent publication from HR Topics has a tool to calculate the impact of employees on your bottom line.  Click here to learn more!

Human Resources professionals must stop waiting for an invitation to join the leadership conversation. Take control of your career and step up to the plate. HR professionals should create visibility so that they are in front of new, effective initiatives. It just doesn’t make sense to wait in the shadows while leadership is trying to implement something that doesn’t make sense for your team.

Finding the Starting Point

When planning a growth strategy, organizations need to keep employees in mind and recognize that needs change. Every part of the HR equation changes with growth – from recruiting talent, compensation philosophy, training and development, and even HR technologies.  HR should be the one watching all of that as an organization grows.

So where do HR professionals begin? The starting point is to form informal alliances with your leadership team.  Forging alliances will help HR gain authority by being trusted, influential, and credible.  Lori’s 3rd book, Taking Your SEAT at the Table provides steps and templates to help HR get involved now.

Lori Kleiman is an HR expert who presents to business people and groups. Click here to see a video of Lori in action. If you’d like to have Lori keynote one of her HR presentations at your upcoming event, click here, or email Lori directly at!
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