Should HR give up on a board seat? A place at the top table has long been HR’s holy grail. But is genuine influence more important than status? Four experts mull it over INTERVIEWS KIRSTY TUXFORD
Matthew Lewis Partner, Middle East and Africa, Boyden global executive search
There’s something missing – a secret sauce or magic dust – that is stopping HR getting to the top table I believe that HR should be trying to get on the board. But the metrics used in the past to measure the success of the HR function may no longer be relevant or understood by the business. A new era of data analytics should help HR’s cause and provide hard evidence. This, coupled
with its role in creating an engaged, inspired and creative workforce, should continue to be a top priority. But there’s something missing – a secret sauce or magic dust – that is stopping HR getting to the top table. For any function to be credible to the board it must at least add value, be commercial and lead from the front. It has to be authentic and
do what is says on the tin. If that is talent acquisition and development, then do that, and do it really well. If HR is to secure a place on the board, financial return and commercial output are not the right metrics. It is wrong to assume that the function of managing the greatest asset of a company – its people – can be measured by the same criteria that is focused on what the investors and shareholders want. HR must show that it believes in its people, and that it genuinely wants to attract, retain and develop them.
Elie Georgiou-Botaris Middle East practice lead for talent management and organisation alignment, Towers Watson
HR must think strategically and speak the language of the business to get a seat on the board HR should not give up trying to claim a seat at the board table, but it has a lot more to do in terms of transforming its way of thinking and proving the value of its contributions to the business. In the Middle East, HR is not always seen as a profession that adds value to the business as it lacks 10
People Management Middle East
the necessary business skills and mindset to think strategically in the minds of some leaders. It is not data-driven in its way of thinking and planning, and so loses credibility in convincing the business to adopt its proposals. To change this perception, HR must become customer-focused, mirroring the marketing function in terms of identifying and understanding emerging market trends and how these may affect the organisation. It needs to shift its
mindset and way of working. It must think strategically, and understand and speak the language of the business to get a seat on the board. Some self-criticism and monitoring of staff, services and programmes, as well as seeking feedback from the business, would help HR build the capabilities that are necessary to strategically partner with the organisation and take part in shaping and driving people strategies. The employee lifecycle should also be managed more proactively, with effective programmes to support each stage.