Demonstrating HR’s Importance to the C-Suite

Much to the chagrin of HR professionals everywhere, Human Resources isn’t always viewed as a critical business function by their organization’s leadership. While certainly an important one, HR routinely is left out of C-suite conversations and decisions.

There is no shortage of data that suggests why this is detrimental to an organization’s overall success. HR has a direct impact on talent acquisition, employee retention, organizational morale and internal communication. One study estimates the cost of losing an employee is roughly a third of their annual salary. These expenses quickly add up and impact a company’s bottom line in a number of direct and indirect ways. 

Still, only 7% of midsized organizations have a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), or near equivalent. Compounding this issue is that many companies will need to onboard additional skilled labor in the decade ahead to remain competitive. In many ways, HR is best suited to hire, retain and relocate the staff who’ll be fundamental to their organization’s success. 

Part of earning the trust and respect of leadership begins with better communicating HR’s needs and successes internally. This will go a long way toward helping the C-suite recognize your department’s value, and in turn, improve their overall impression of HR as a business function. Here are several recommendations for going about this.

Look for ways to align with – and anticipate – overall business needs 

Whether it’s forging interpersonal relationships or negotiating a deal, finding common ground has long been one of the best ways to establish rapport between two parties. Ask yourself, where is there overlap between what you see as necessity and what your leadership has identified as the company’s top priorities? 

If leadership has stated it wants to improve efficiencies across the organization by 20%, outline the ways HR can directly address this goal – and be specific! For example, document the ways in which employee wellness impacts employee retention, which subsequently improves productivity and market competitiveness. Include recommendations for how to improve these efforts and how to benchmark and track their effectiveness.

Beyond aligning your work with stated priorities, many executives appreciate individuals and departments who can anticipate business needs and identify recommendations to help the organization stay ahead of them. In fact, according to one study, only 17% of executives viewed their HR managers as “anticipators” versus “reactors.” This isn’t always easy, especially given how stretched HR departments can be, but it’s nonetheless important to work toward. 

Speak their language – KPIs and ROI

There are few – if any – executives who don’t primarily rely on numbers and data to make important business decisions. Those departments that can succinctly relay their function’s impact through hard numbers generally are perceived as more important. Chances are, the functions represented in your company’s C-suite do this quite well. 

When it comes to communicating KPIs and ROI, there are several important considerations:

Understand what data leadership values

Reiterating the previous section, what has your leadership noted as a priority in the year ahead? What data or information generally prompts change? These are important questions to consider when assessing how to best communicate HR’s needs and successes. 

Have a process to gather data

Once you’ve identified what data is important to share with leadership, develop an efficient and effective way for gathering and analyzing it. It’s critical that this process be one that isn’t overly burdensome to maintain. Almost as important as the type of insights you share is the speed at which you can identify them. This may necessitate an additional budget to purchase a reporting platform or bring in an outside resource to assess your KPIs and data-collection processes, but it’s money well spent in improving your department’s effectiveness – and stature in the eyes of leadership. 

Present it in a way that makes sense to leadership

Now that you’ve gone through all the effort of tracking and analyzing your department’s successes in a way that aligns with the overall organizational goals, you want your leadership to understand and appreciate it, right? This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s a common downfall for many professionals – not making data, insights and recommendations as clear and simple to understand as possible. 

Executives are often starved for time and need to be able to make sense of your team’s performance at a glance. They are far more likely to understand and recall your findings and recommendations when the data is “translated” into a visual like a graph or infographic. One study shows that 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual. Here are some quick and easy resources to help with data visualization.

In Conclusion

It is impossible to overstate HR’s status as a critical business function, yet many executives don’t see it that way. Fortunately, more are changing their opinion and incorporating HR in top-level business decisions. HR professionals can help continue this trend by identifying what matters most to their leadership and finding ways to align their work with those topics. 

If you need help distilling your department’s work for your leadership, we’d love to help. We specialize in reviewing HR functions like employee relocation and related benefits that have direct and significant impact on a company’s bottom line!


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