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Elevating HR

We often speak about elevating HR, but I must admit to mixed feelings. The source of the mixed feelings is that HR pros sometimes approach elevating HR the wrong way. Let’s take a moment to review how elevating HR can go wrong, and how to do it right.


How Elevating HR Can Go Wrong

The typical way elevating HR goes wrong, is that HR pros think in terms of doing more of the things HR likes. For example, HR may argue there is a need for more training, a new onboarding system, a fresh batch of competency models, and maybe a new skills-based approach to organizing work. Managers often complain when HR makes these kinds of proposals. The managers are not against HR initiatives per se, it is just that they believe that these initiatives will take a lot of time, cost too much, and will not deliver as much value as was hoped for. In other words, line managers fear these HR programs will have a negative return on investment while simultaneously making their lives more difficult.


If we have permission to elevate HR, we have to do so in a way that managers see as valuable. They have to see initiatives that will make their lives easier and the organization more successful.


How to Elevate HR the Right Way

The right way to elevate HR is to start with the stakeholders, and the most important stakeholders are the managers. Managers are the group that most bear the brunt of poor HR programs and reap the benefits of good ones. HR needs to start by understanding the manager’s concerns and collaborating on solutions.


Understanding concerns is the easy part, managers typically know what the problems are and are happy to tell you. Collaboration is more difficult. Managers may not see HR as having anything useful to offer, managers may prefer to attempt to solve the problem themselves as best they can. If managers feel that way, then before HR can elevate its impact it has to win managers’ trust.


The way to win trust is to take on small projects and prove you are a reliable colleague. Demonstrate how your knowledge about people and organizations can provide insights they overlooked. Implement a program, whether it be a change to hiring, training, or reward, that brings tangible benefits. Once you have proven HR’s ability to deliver, then the sky is the limit in elevating  HR.


You are most likely to create a program that has tangible benefits if you work closely with the manager in designing and implementing the program. They understand the realities on the ground and will point out things that look good from a distance but won’t work in practice. Also, if a manager is involved in creating a program, they will be more committed to making it work.


Elevating HR is the right thing to do, just be ready to take the long path of building trust and delivering small wins before you attempt to make grand changes.



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