Strategic HR a bottom-line must (Editorial)

Too often, the HR profession finds itself having to justify a place in the executive suite. Unfortunately, the advantage of having a skilled HR professional capable of redesigning organizations and effectively deploying personnel as needed is overlooked by many CEOs and business leaders.

Advice for HR practitioners looking to join the senior team usually focuses on the ability to show how HR has a bottom-line impact. This aspect of selling HR is relatively straightforward, involving demonstrating the measurable costs of replacing employees lost because of workplace issues that could have been solved through better HR policies. Poor retention means incurring recruitment and training and development costs for new hires, and lost productivity when experienced staff leave. And then there's the high cost of inattention to healthy-workplace issues that could have been addressed through strong HR programs. But strategic HR is about more than measurable operational efficiencies.

It's about getting the biggest bang for your labour buck, and without HR at the executive table, overcoming barries to organizational effectiveness is more difficult.

The CFO is at the table because of the importance of financial management; the CIO makes it because of the essential aspect of information management systems. So why is the professional educated to recruit, manage, develop and organized employees not automatically part of the senior team?

HR professionals are being encouraged to sell the value of their contributions. Why should they have to?

Some of the explanation comes from the historical development of the profession from managing personnel files. Unfortunately, too many business leaders view HR from a decades-old perspective, and this is where Canadian organizations are missing opportunities to better develop and co-ordinate workers.

Of course, the story is the same in other countries, where HR is also working to make its mark. It thus becomes easier to beat the competition by being among the first organizations to wake up and capitalize on the bottom-line advantages HR offers.

How ready is HR for all of this? There are many HR executives capable of playing this role, but continued professional development is needed to ensure a steady stream of pracitioners able to take up senior positions. For HR professionals, their associations and educators the challenge is to prepare the profession to assume the executive role organizations require.

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