HR should, without doubt, be on the board. I believe that given the way the global economy is going, a company’s only true differentiator is its people.
If HR is empowered, and can make the right kind of decisions, it can really help propel a company forward, by making sure that people are getting what they need to perform, and that they are being measured and compensated according to their performance.
I’m on an ex-pat posting from the US, and the past 12 months have seen a real learning curve for me, in terms of the volume of work that goes into having your employee base spread across 15 countries. While in my last 15 years in the US it was possible to make sweeping decisions leading to drastic changes, in the UK you really have to appreciate the amount of work in every decision that has to be made at the EMEA corporate level. I wish we had more time to focus on the actual initiatives. That’s the only thing that really frustrates me about the HR function, but we are in the process of assigning regional ownership to the HR team in EMEA to streamline processes.
My HR team is working on a global initiative called ‘Talent Excellence’, aimed at ensuring that we get the right person in the right job. They are doing a fabulous job – I’m so proud of them. They continue to win more and more respect in the organisation, because instead of approaching the senior leadership with problems, they are going to them with ideas. I’m proud of their ability, as HR professionals, to think from a business standpoint and to put business cases together on whether we need to spend more money, or whether we need to change benefits. It’s critical for companies that HR directors and their teams understand that the first consequences of every decision taken at director level affect the income statement and messages to the street.
Business acumen is critical in an HR director. This company passionately believes that HR is the last frontier. To get a seat at the table, HR as a function is going to have to understand that each decision has its consequences, which usually link back to the key financials.
An HR director should be proactive, customer-focused and solutions orientated, so one of the things that I love most about our current HRD is that in the first week that she was here, she was never in her office with the door shut. She was out meeting her customers, sitting down with them, listening to their ideas. I would also look for someone with experience in mergers and acquisitions and of working in other countries – foreign language skills would be a bonus.