The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Human Resources’ Role in Business Today

Human Resources' role has evolved over the years. Now it's more important than ever to embrace these 3 steps to best integrate HR with leadership.

I attended the National HR Conference last month, and was intrigued by the change in conversation – and the similarity of the conversation at the same time. Over the past 60 years, the world of human resources has dramatically changed. We are no longer focused on the administrative function of getting checks issued and ID cards printed. HR professionals are business partners that work with management to shape the organization and prepare human capital for the ever changing operations of business. These experiences help leadership ensure that the most expensive line item on most budgets – our people – is working with the organization to meet goals.

The titles of HR leaders today fascinate me –  I actually shared a flight with someone a few months ago who told me his leadership team contained a VP of Personnel. He spoke of her in glowing terms – and I was shocked she allowed herself to be called this. Checking LinkedIn – sure enough she did not – she was listed as VP of Human Resources. But even Director or VP of Human Resources seems to be “old fashioned” today.

More common in 2016 is Director of People Strategy, Human Capital Manager, Human Capital Strategist, HR Business Partner. The exact title isn’t important. What is critical, and trying to be communicated, is that someone in your organization is focused on the link between your strategy and the people you employee to carry it out. Ensure that you are using this non-verbal communication title to show your entire organization the value you place on your HR function.

Those aligned with the HR function must be reflective of their organization’s business goals and be able to speak fluently about the business operations. This understanding will allow professionals to provide their strategic expertise in growing and developing, implementing change, or  assessing the best practices in the organization. Employees can be well taken care of, but unless they are meeting the strategic mission of the organization, there will be no success. Ultimately this is the responsibility of the human resources function.

Organizations are best served if Human Resources and the C-suite work together to define the integration of HR throughout the leadership team. Here are three essential steps for everyone involved in Human Resources to ensure they embrace:

  • Be a proactive business leader. Don’t wait for an issue to arise to voice an opinion, and leadership shouldn’t wait until a solution is confirmed to bring HR into the conversation.  HR must understand what is happening in the internal and external environment at all times. At the same time, organizational leadership must involve HR in everyday conversations; there needs to be shared knowledge of employee situations through ongoing analysis.
  • Embrace organizational knowledge. Your Human Resources executive should understand the drivers of your business, including cost factors, competitors, service, and technology. HR needs to understand the barriers to success and be aligned with strategy to attack these issues. When evaluating aspects such as pay policy, training programs, and how to recruit, HR should make decisions that are grounded in the best interest of the long-term success of your organization.
  • Build positive relationships through constant/appropriate communication. With line employees, executives, and community executives simultaneously is a typical part of the HR function. The key is to have a flexible yet decisive individual at the helm of your human resources function who can professionally represent your organization. They must be approachable to all internally, but also be able to separate from the employee population as executives: they must know and understand “the gang” without being a member of the group.

If your team and management embrace these behaviors, you will have a valued member of the leadership team for organizations of all shapes and sizes.

1 Comment
  1. While the tone of the article strives to be progressive regarding the HR function, you have fallen into the same old trap human resources people have for the past ten or twenty years.
    Changing the name of the function to some glitzy new title does NOT create credibility, it creates confusion. For example, Human Resources Business Partner is an absurdity. Are not all the managers “business partners”? Do you see finance business partners? marketing business partners? sales business partners?
    The objective of every human resources practitioner should be to build credibility, strategic and operational capability in the human resources function, not to keep running away from the functional name. If you thought to have a deeper conversation with your seatmate he probably would have chuckled at titles including words like partner, strategic, people, human capital. Almost all the senior executives I speak with are concerned human resources is too caught up with inventing new titles, rather than building power into the “old” ones. The creative title creation is an area of great amusement among many many senior executives. One other fallout of this title creation is the “employees” (if I dare call them that rather than “talent assets”) really don’t quite understand what “people strategists” do. I some organizations people wander around looking for whom can assist with a hiring, compensation, etc issue, with not an HR person to be found.
    Let HR not fall into the same old trap it did 20 years ago. The lack of providing value and knowledge in the “personnel” title, and despoiling it with lack of organizational understanding, caused fleeing from the title and creating human resources. Now that HR has failed to provide what the business needs causes fleeing from that title and creating new “cool sounding” ones.
    You probably won’t publish this, but I think you and other HR professionals need to evaluate what is important, the title or the work. Perhaps it will give you something to think about. I am not saying you are in this category, but the human resources profession is overrun in cockroach type fashion with “consultants” who provide little or no value. Hmmm, maybe we should change the “consultant” title to something “cool”.
    I was going to use some shock words like shit or fuck, since I know that makes you think you are hip and relevant, but decided to pass.
    Thanks for your attnetion

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