Is Your HR C-Suite?
From the early 1950s to the early 1970s my grandmother served as the manager of human resources of a 100-person cigar manufacturing company in Philadelphia. But that was a different time and, love her as I did, my grandmother was no human resources executive. She was essentially a glorified payroll administrator. Things have definitely changed. Today's HR manager is not my grandma’s HR manager.
"There's been a complete transformation for the HR leader and HR professionals, specifically over the last 10 to 15 years," Tom Hammond, Paychex's vice president of corporate strategy and product management, told me recently. "Today's HR professional now has a seat at the C-suite.”
Hammond's right. HR managers – at least those working in forward-thinking, growing companies – are no longer considered to be mere clerks and administrators as they were in my grandma's day. Today, they are an important part of a company's executive leadership team, helping to drive the best use of their organization’s most important asset: its people. So what has driven this change? Essentially, it comes to down to three things:
Technology, particularly the ability for employees and managers to enter and access data using mobile devices, has created a dramatic shift in focus. Administration of employees – from filling out job applications, to onboarding, to completing necessary paperwork – can now be done by the employee online and on any device, saving HR personnel hours of unnecessary (and unproductive) paperwork and phone calls. Today's HR professionals can now focus on whether they're bringing the right people in the front door who are going to deliver bottom-line results, rather than just administrating the workflow. "For the HR manager, mobile technology has opened the door to productivity and efficiency, availing them of precious time to focus more on working with the C-suite to help make decisions that drive the business forward," says Hammond.
C-suite executives are generally data-driven people. In today's Big Data world, the amount of information available to help leaders make decisions – and their use of this data – is usually the difference between an organization that grows and an organization that remains stagnant. Hammond has been watching his client base embrace HR data and use it to transform their companies. "We see everything from employee engagement to people analytics, all the things that give you a good solid set of insights into what's really driving your business," he said. "When I think of some of the things that we see from the 605,000 customers we serve across the United States, they're really looking for insights. Can I use data to develop a profile of my top employees? Are they a flight risk? What is propelling them? Are they highly engaged? And how can I give them performance feedback on a very specific cadence, so that I’m making sure that they're aligned and happy with what they do and that they are able to talk about my organization very positively with their friends and co-workers?"
Finally, Hammond's seen a transformative change in attitude among successful HR leaders over the past two decades – an attitude that has firmly placed the HR executive into a key C-suite role. For him, this is not about payroll. Today's HR executives are themselves strategic leaders, people who are capable of doing a complete analysis of an organization to find strengths, weaknesses, and identify areas for improvement. Hammond believes that it’s a company's people who define its brand, and that to attract the best people, the company must have the best image. He sees smart HR executives who recognize the value of being intimately involved in a company's processes to identify opportunities for improvement and efficiencies. And, of course, he sees HR management at the very core of the benefits that their companies offer, to make sure that they are competitive, fair, and motivating.
"In the end, it's really simple," he says. "Business owners want to drive their own results and they do that through great people. You need to find the right people up front. You need to recruit them into your organization, onboard them quickly, ensure they're engaged, and then unlock every door that's required for them to help you take your business wherever you want it to go. You need the right leader in charge of HR to do this."
Sorry, Grandma. Times have definitely changed.