Just recently, I was a guest on DriveThruHR, a daily radio show where hosts Bryan Wempen and William Tincup talk to Human Resources professionals in the trenches. It’s a great show. If you haven’t listened (and you should; go check it out, like, now), these discussions often start with the question: ‘What’s keeping HR practitioners up at night?‘
My answer: A burning desire to attribute to the growth of my company. This led me to look at the bigger picture (and my own experience) on how HR can lead from the trenches.
Less than a month ago, I started a new job. I ended a thirteen year relationship and left a company where I’d been able to really step up my HR game, recommending and implementing solid initiatives that helped push the company, and its people, forward.
Like any seasoned professional, I’m walking into this new opportunity with a ton of ideas, ready to make my mark. But to succeed in leaving a lasting legacy and making a real impact, I knew that I couldn’t just ‘Bogart’ my way in.
Hitting the ground running sometimes meant I had to slow down and realize that to be the strategic HR leader that I want to be in this company, I needed to do a few things first:
- Spend the time learning the business. You can’t recommend solid HR practices if you don’t know the business you’re in. Spend the time with the sales team, operations team, the employees on the front line, and gain an in-depth knowledge of the business and the industry. Rolling up your sleeves will not only provide the knowledge of the business and the processes, but will also provide the opportunity to begin developing key relationships.
- Spend the time learning the numbers. Understand how the company makes money. You have to know the financials. Period.
- Understand the transactional processes. Yes, I said it. Transactional. Let’s face it, all HR professionals must deal with some transactional processes as part of life in the trenches. For most of us, we should be able to do that with our eyes closed. So do it, do it well (or delegate when you can), and you’ll have more time to work on the strategic side.
- Spend the time listening. Sit in on team meetings. Have one-on-ones with department heads and senior leadership learning about what’s going well and what’s not.
- Understand the vision and goals for the company. Dig in with the senior leadership team on their strategies for growing the business. Then work to ensure that the human resources strategy is in alignment with the goals and values of the organization.
Rinse. Repeat. The above process is not a one-time deal. Remember: “Business Partner” should be more than a job title for HR professionals in the trenches; it’s an imperative. If we truly want to contribute to a company’s growth, drive strategy, and be viewed as true leaders, HR or otherwise, we have to do all of the above, early and often.
And, of course, have lots of coffee on hand for those long, sleepless nights.
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