Why don’t we feel like we have a legitimate seat at the Board?

Throughout my 23 year career in HR, we have had allegations of being ‘soft and fluffy’, or ‘chicks with slides’ – obviously not commercial enough, so we have struggled to get the Board to ‘invest’ – financially, emotionally or strategically in the ‘people’ side of the business. Investment is for the financials, marketing or IT.

In my view, this is dangerous, as we move more and more to a services economy. Often, we are one of the very few females in the Exec team and sometimes it is hard to be heard, in the same way, and for the same amount of time, as our male colleagues.

Why is this the case?

I think that there are several reasons for this:

  1. We are playing by a different set of rules to the majority
  2. Our education often didn’t cover the preparation of a financial business case for HR programs or initiatives – we have learnt this as we have gone, but it was not innate
  3. Data assets have been hard to develop, are typically narrow in their scope and are very time consuming to produce – let’s face it, most of us are struggling to get right the basics of accurate figures for attrition, headcount, absenteeism and leave liability
  4. The investment in HR tools tends to be narrow – often just talent management tools and there are multiple systems in situ that are not compatible
  5. We have been through numerous ‘back to back’ restructures, reorganisations, downsizing, outsourcing – you name it we’ve done it. So we have struggled to get back to ‘business as usual’ and best practice
  6. Our leaders change frequently and we are regularly back to establishing our credibility, trying to communicate our current program of work to deliver their new desired outcome
  7. Change has been the only constant in our world

Yet we are fed a daily dose of ‘HR must get data’, ‘predictive data is the future, etc. Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Report states “two in three Australian organisations rated digital HR as an ‘important or ‘very important’ trend but aren’t making it a priority for action’. Jeff Nelson, group HR director of Aviva stated  “Identifying HR metrics and using them to track trends is the bread and butter of HR analytics.”   SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) saysAn effective HR metrics reporting practice provides measurable value to the organisation”

Back to my point, if we don’t jump on this now, we are going to be left behind.

I think it goes beyond this too – we need to get our heads around a total HR offering and how we can communicate this to the Exec and our people to show the value we are delivering every day.

What are the gaps between business units or differences between companies within our group of companies? Where is the risk? What are the costs associated with those risks? And just as importantly, where are the opportunities?

Where is our solution? How can we make the conversation more strategic?

Finally, how can we deliver this information in a format that will justify our business cases and get us the results that we want?

These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves and our team, if we are to get that legitimate seat at the boardroom table.

Are you there yet?