You don't have to flick through many HR journals before coming across some individual exhorting the profession to talk the language of business. Leaving behind the penchant for fads and meaningless jargon and instead aligning it with the business side, it is a prerequisite for HR professionals wishing to take up their rightful place on the board. So whether you are pitching to the finance director about the latest HR initiative or briefing a group of City analysts about your organisation's superior human capital practices prior to posting of year-end results, you'll need to master the language to gain credibility.
It seems a fairly nebulous concept, is there a pure definition?
Business language is unequivocally concerned with finance, rather than HR policies or procedures - and the financial imperative for any business is return on investment (ROI).
As one consultant from Mercer Human Resource Consulting puts it: "Business people make decisions on the basis of ROI. HR absolutely has to do this as well. It's possible to put a number on anything. HR has to learn to quantify everything so it can make informed, strategic decisions."
What can I do to leverage my position?
Mastering the language relies on HR forging alliances with other departments such as sales, finance and marketing, and through them ensuring you are aware of the company's business and strategic goals. Policies and procedures should be in place which enable HR to quantify its people management activities - business decisions are made on an ROI basis so everything must be quantifiable.
On a personal level, learn how to read corporate reports and accounts and the financial pages, and develop your analytical thinking. Learn about the market your organisation operates in, gen up on the financial performance of rivals as well as that of your own organisation.
Study for an MBA
There's no short-cut to developing your analytical thinking or business acumen, but one sure-fire way of progressing this is to study for an MBA. HR is roundly lambasted for its poor uptake of the MBA qualification, but those professionals who do are unequivocal about the benefits it affords them in teaching them about the business.
How do I quantify HR?
By establishing some form of HR metrics and/or benchmarking. It is frequently said that human capital is the biggest asset