The Role of HR Leaders in the Boardroom -Strategies to enhance credibility and influence
In today's dynamic business landscape, Human Resources Leaders are required to play an increasingly pivotal role in the Boardroom. As Boards continue to come under scrutiny from shareholders and other stakeholders around questions of reputation and culture, CEO succession, executive compensation, and the capability of workforces to pivot to new markets and opportunities, the opportunity for HR leaders to have an influential voice in the boardroom has never been greater.
The modern HR function has evolved into a strategic partner to senior management and the Board, with responsibilities encompassing long-term business planning, talent acquisition and development, and organisational capability. This article will explore the significance of HR in the boardroom and suggests strategies to enhance credibility and influence for HR leaders.
The Expanding Role of HR
Traditionally, the boardroom has been focused on high-level decision-making and shaping the strategic direction of the organisation. However, the evolving nature of the business landscape has made it imperative for HR to contribute to these discussions. HR leaders now have a seat at the table, bringing their knowledge and understanding of the workforce to inform critical business decisions.
Future Workforce Planning
One of HR’s most vital contributions to the boardroom is its ability to engage in future workforce planning. HR leaders possess a deep understanding of the organisation’s human capital, enabling them to identify current and future talent needs, address skill gaps, and develop strategies to attract, retain, and develop the best talent. They contribute insights on workforce demographics, succession planning, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that align with the company’s strategic aims.
Corporate Culture and Employee Engagement
HR’s role in the boardroom is also tied to ensuring a strong corporate culture and employee engagement. HR leaders are responsible for developing and implementing strategies that create a supportive and inclusive work environment. By championing employee well-being, recognition programs, and fostering effective communication channels, HR enhances employee engagement, productivity, and reduces turnover. In addition, working (often in partnership with control functions) to effectively embed and measure the efficacy of culture initiatives has become an important element of the role.
Change Management and Organisational Development
As businesses undergo periods of transformation and change, HR’s expertise in change management becomes invaluable. With their ability to analyse current organisational structures, HR professionals work alongside the board and senior management to develop and implement change initiatives. They assist in managing the impact of change on employees, facilitating training programs, and ensuring successful adoption of new processes, systems, and technologies.
Strategies to enhance credibility and influence in the Boardroom
To maximise their influence in the Boardroom we believe there are six key strategies that will give HR leaders an edge in helping them build and maintain credibility and influence with the Board.
1. Develop an understanding of how Boards operate
If possible, gain experience of Boards, how they operate and the responsibilities and challenges of Directors. Ideally gain NED experience that will build empathy for and understanding of the role Directors play.
2. Speak and act like a business leader
Drop HR jargon and speak the language of the business. The primary language of Boards tends to be financial, so building confidence with the financials and general commercial and strategic business issues will give the Board and Directors confidence.
3. Use key issues for the Board as a platform to influence
Succession planning, culture and engagement, executive compensation and future workforce planning are all areas that the Board takes a strong interest in. Take the lead on these from an HR perspective and demonstrate expertise. Managing the CEO succession process in partnership with the Chair can be particularly effective way to build credibility as can helping the Chair and CEO navigate their relationship with each other (both requiring deft touch).
4. Ensure breadth of experience across the HR portfolio
The HR leader is often responsible for a sizeable function comprised of business partners, deep subject matter experts and increasingly operations, technology and data and insights professionals. As a result, the HR leader should ideally have experience in each of the facets of the HR function and ideally exposure to an area outside of the HR function.
5. Communicate with impact to have influence
Clear and effective communication is crucial for HR professionals when interfacing with Board members and senior management. The ability to articulate HR’s role, strategies, and initiatives with confidence and in a way that connects to the business is vital.
6. Be confident with data and technology
HR’s reliance on data and technology has significantly increased. HR leaders need to excel in data analysis to make evidence-based decisions that impact the workforce. Understanding technology trends, such as HR analytics, artificial intelligence, and cloud-based systems, equips HR with the ability to leverage emerging tools and technologies effectively.
The role of HR in the boardroom has evolved significantly, transforming it from a support function to a strategic partner. HR leaders with their unique insights into the workforce and essential skills and expertise discussed above, can effectively contribute to high-level strategic discussions, leading to improved organisational outcomes, employee engagement, and sustained business success.