Career issues: forging a good relationship with the board

As a newly promoted HR director, how can I forge good working relationships with other board members?

The HR view…

This is both the most critical and most difficult part of making HR credible in any organisation. We are a service provider and we deliver best when we are in a relationship, not just partnering with it.

Start at the beginning: engage with your colleagues. They are mirrors of the workforce, so find out their perceptions of HR. Then do the three Ps:

People – make sure HR is listening to managers and treating them like real people. You can’t expect to be credible and claim you are going to add strategic value when your service can’t even pay people correctly or deal with enquiries quickly. You can’t teach a person to cook when they are hungry.

Policy – policies do not run organisations. Don’t defend poor policies just because they are yours. Never allow yourself or your HR teams to ever say to colleagues, directors or managers that they can’t do something because “the policy says no”. Good practice drives the development of good policy, not the other way round.

Performance – what gets measured gets done. Measure what you and your team deliver and share it with colleagues. Don’t use platitudes; convert all you do into business benefit and show that your relationship with them is beneficial to them.

Graham White, HR director, Westminster City Council

The recruiter’s view…

These are testing times and there has never been a greater need for excellent HR. Almost all organisations are experiencing forms of rationalisation, and HR directors must guide the board on how to restructure within the law, retain their best talent to build for the future, and foster a climate of strong communication, ensuring complete transparency for those remaining.

At senior level there is a spotlight on board compensation and a need for intelligent thinking around management succession. The war for talent is not over, and people remain top of the agenda, but in securing the confidences of the board this agenda needs to be presented as a means to an end and not just an end in itself.

Within most organisations, HR is increasingly being relied upon to play a pivotal role in moving the business towards improved profitability. As a new HR director, you need to understand the business and be clear on where the focus is. Work with the board to enable them to make the necessary changes; equip them so that their efforts are driven in a precise direction. Decisively, it’s crucial for HR directors to work with the board on the business critical objectivesrather than the ‘nice to haves’.

Christine McCorry, senior HR consultant, BLT Recruitment

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