The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Key Areas of Focus for HR Leaders


The world of human resources has changed dramatically in the past 60 years. We are no longer the administrators making sure employees have what they need. We are business partners that work with management to shape the organization and prepare human capital for the ever changing operations of business.

In making these changes, management has asked for HR to focus on new initiatives. Embracing what is valued in a human resources department is critical for business owners, managers and HR professionals alike.   In conversations with business leaders, they continually discuss four values they see in their HR leaders.

1) Be a proactive business leader. HR shouldn’t wait for an issue to arise to voice an opinion, and leadership can’t wait until it is ready to take action to bring HR into the conversation.  HR must understand what is happening in the internal and external environment at all times. HR should be expected to create initiatives that will address the business needs long before there is an issue. At the same time, organizational leadership must involve HR in everyday conversations so the knowledge of employee situations is through ongoing analysis and not crisis management.

2) Focus on your top and high potential performers. That doesn’t mean treat all employees the same. Managers are tired of hearing, “if we did it for Steve we have to do it for Jane.” Every situation is different, and HR has to be open to helping find a workable solution for the business. Yes, it is HR’s job to be careful of discrimination, but at the same time, some employees deserve more flexibility than others. Listen to needs, consider compliance, and provide options.  Have a solid business reason for differentiation and allow management to act on that.

3) Use best practices as a guide, not a rulebook. All executives should be participating in industry conferences as well as conferences that focus on their expertise.  Learning about the latest and greatest innovations and practices in the industry will help guide internal decisions. This goes for HR knowing the business, as well as CEOs understanding changes in employee populations. All business people look forward to sharing information and best practices, but it’s difficult to treat them as a cookie cutter fit within your culture. You should use these practices as launching pad for the innovation around the needs and culture of the organization. Best practices should be used as a compass, not a roadmap.

4) Understand total compensation. Total compensation is a buzzword in HR, but one that is not always evaluated within organizations. Managing these programs takes time, communication, and documentation. Top talent, both current and identified high potential employee, have to be rewarded, or your key people will run, not walk, to the competitor. Pay for performance needs to be integrated into the business language of the future, and considered by the entire management team as a critical component of success. HR can do this with leadership, business knowledge, and communication across the organization if it has the support of the CEO.

Consider these in your current HR team – and whether your organization would be better served with a focus toward the future rather than an administrative department focused on payroll and benefits.

Photo: Michael Dales

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