Why the Seat at the Table Still Eludes Some HR Organizations

Every HR organization wants the proverbial seat at the table.  Some have secured it, but it continues to elude others.  Why is that?

It often comes down to a lack of alignment between the workforce strategy and the business strategy. That's according to Jeffrey Joerres, former CEO and chairman of Manpower Group.  He further explains "that’s because “investors don’t ask for your workforce strategy, they ask for your business strategy.

Let's dissect the issue, and see how to correct it...

Companies are good at developing a business strategy.

Companies are good at developing a business strategy, and keeping that strategy up to date.  For example, a new business strategy may include the following initiatives:

  • Entering a new market that buys differently.
  • Shifting marketing strategy toward social media.
  • Increasing speed to market with a new product line.

New business strategies require new skills.

After the business strategy has been mapped out, managers are expected to execute on.  And doing the job well requires having the right skill in place.

For example, if you’re moving into a new market that buys differently than your existing markets, your sales teams will require new selling skills, and perhaps a new sales process that aligns with the way the new market makes purchasing decisions.

If you’re augmenting traditional marketing channels with the use of social media, you’ll need to acquire new skill sets.  Targeted email marketing is managed very differently than Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

Taking products to market faster than in the past may mean reducing team size, and moving to a more agile development approach.

Developing new skills requires a new workforce strategy.

When it comes to delivering the skills to support the new strategy, it’s incumbent upon HR to create the training and recruiting programs that will develop and attract the right skills to execute the business’ strategic initiatives.

Developing the new selling skills to capitalize on the new market opportunity requires training the current sales team to sell differently.  The workforce strategy should therefore include a rigorous training program, and perhaps a new hire in the training organization with deep experience selling in the new market.

Acquiring the skills to conduct social media marketing campaigns may mean building a new recruiting program that will attract the right kind of talent.

And getting your product development teams up to speed in agile development practices often requires finding the right consultant to do the training, and attracting the right new-hires.

In Summary

A workforce strategy should follow and respond to the business strategy.  When a business strategy changes, HR must revise its workforce strategy to align with those changes.  But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Looking back at Jeffrey Joerres remark, “investors don’t ask for your workforce strategy, they ask for your business strategy.”  HR needn’t wait for anyone to ask their workforce strategy; build it, and push it forward.

When the business strategy changes, HR should take it upon themselves to update and re-align their workforce strategy with that of the business.  Updating, aligning and executing the workforce strategy is what will earn that seat at the table.