The skyrocketing stock of the HR professional

Corporate Synergies

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Well, frankly, it’s about time. For years, executives have said “their people” are their organization’s most important asset, that their team is what makes the business succeed. And yet, too often they treated Human Resources as an expense rather than a strategic contributor.

But now we’re finally starting to see Human Resource professionals get the respect they’ve long deserved. The perception of HR is shifting, as executives realize the department’s strategic importance to the organization.

There are 2 main drivers of this rise in perception: (1) the fluidity of talent and (2) the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. Talent has been increasingly fluid for a couple of decades now; very few people work for the same employer for 40 years anymore. That’s not news. However, this reality has increased the need for businesses to attract talent. Most executives today realize that employing top talent is a significant advantage for their business, and they have come around to placing a higher value on recruiting and retention.

While the increasing focus on talent has been a fairly slow evolution, the implementation of the ACA has been like a hurricane. The ACA is funded by taxes, penalties and the Cadillac Tax. It becomes critically important that HR professionals insulate their organizations from these penalties. What that has done is put the crosshairs on senior HR professionals, whereby they need to be compliant and insulate their organization from negative financial impact. It has forced employers to reexamine how they provide healthcare benefits to employees, and to dig deep to examine potential strategies that make it work best for their organization.

The intersection of these two realities demands that HR be a critical part of the growth and effective running of an organization. The job has become very intense. The demand for knowledge and expertise around technology, personnel, group employee benefits, compensation, human resource information systems, payroll and the successful development of a constructive culture are critical for the sustainability of a business.

Smart folks in the C-suite understand that HR is no longer an “expense” in their organizations. HR professionals and departments are actually an asset and can and should be objectively measured. There is an ROI to HR because the department has a tremendous responsibility for an organization’s direction, and the good ones are delivering. They’re helping to drive the business forward.

We’re at the beginning of a new wave of HR appreciation. It’s a new sensation for senior-level professionals in HR because they aren’t used to getting high-fived.

Now, it’s time to turn that appreciation into action. A recent study1 showed that more than half of executives say workforce issues drive strategy all the way up to the board level and workforce development is a key differentiator to the growth of the firm. However, 24% of the executives in the survey say HR is consulted after high-level decisions have already been made. Another 26% say HR is not consulted at all about strategic business issues.

The C-suite needs to engage those brains in HR. They’re the boots on the ground. They’re recruiting, negotiating contracts and influencing significant strategic decisions. Consequently, it makes good sense to engage them for their knowledge and expertise, and invite them to be a stronger part of the decision-making apparatus.

After all, talent is probably your organization’s most important asset, and a lot of that talent is in your HR department.

1 Forbes, “Does HR Have A Seat At The Senior Leadership Table?, a report on the Oxford Economics and SAP Success Factors study, 
“Workforce 2020, The Looming Talent Crisis”.


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