In November every year, Americans gather for Thanksgiving, a family ritual where everyone eats, watches U.S. football, and speaks about what they are grateful for. These gatherings can be quite large, so the adults sit at the dining room table and the children sit at a card table that we erect for one day, and label the Kid’s Table.
For several decades I’ve listened to Human Resources (HR) professionals voice concerns because they are relegated to the Kid’s Table in business vs. the Adult’s Table (a seat in the C-Suite next to other business unit leaders). In all honesty, this is not a problem that only HR professionals face. Leaders of every Corporate Center function (for example, Law, Marketing, Internal Communications) face the same reality, as their unit’s do not generate revenue. For this reason, it’s not a given that a seat is reserved with one’s name on it… that seat must be earned.
Why is HR often “boxed out?” According to Sheryl Kovach, president and CEO of Kandor Group, an HR consulting firm in Houston, “HR professionals don’t always have the best reputations among employees. When there’s a layoff, HR is involved. If a discipline problem arises, HR finds its way into the mess. As health care premiums rise, HR delivers the news. With all of these negative instances, many employees have developed feelings of apprehension toward HR.”
However, I believe that if HR showed up as a strategic value-added partner vs. a tactical implementer, the feelings of apprehension would dissipate. And this is where HR needs to take accountability for its part in being relegated to the Kid’s Table.
WHAT CAN I DO? HR professionals must shift their mindset. They must begin to look at HR issues from a business perspective and not just a people perspective. Through this shift a seat at the Adult’s Table can be earned. Executives want you to ask yourself, “Is this going to create business value for the organization and if so, how can I measure the impact?” This mindset shift is critical for HR, as it shows that you are thinking strategically about how your organization can help the company meet or exceed its goals.