How HR can earn that elusive seat at the C-suite table

human resources, HR

Human Resources plays a massive role in how a company is constructed. As a result, it deserves a seat at the executive table. But it’s not a seat that’s easily claimed. 
That’s why the recruiting experts at Peak Sales Recruiting have stepped up and put together a list of ways HR leaders can get themselves invited to that table.
The perils of The Ballooning Executive Team date back to the 1950’s when General Motors CEO Alfred Sloan brought together a handful of business unit leaders to address company-wide issues.
Today, new roles like Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Information Officer continue this trend.  Ironically, the very department responsible for hiring these game-changing executives rarely gets a seat at the C-Suite table.  Although, due to a confluence of events, that is beginning to change.
The core competencies required of HR leaders has transformed dramatically in recent years due to advances in technology, new economic realities, shifting demographics and generational differences in the workplace.  Moreover, recent sex scandals with Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have CEOs turning to HR leaders to help implement training programs.
With unemployment levels falling to 4.1%, HR leaders are experiencing the most significant talent shortage since 2001. Obviously, they must be great recruiters to succeed but CEB Gartner recently reported that 71% of HR leaders are spending more time on business issues not related to HR or talent.
As we approach 2018, great HR leaders must also be tech-savvy, champion diversity and inclusion, and know how to create a winning culture that will boost revenue.
At Peak Sales Recruiting, we work together with HR leaders from world-class companies. Based on their collective experiences and the latest studies, here are 4 tips to be a great HR leader:
1. Align HR strategies with business objectives
Korn Ferry Institute study found that increasing investment in aligning HR practices with business objectives resulted in a 7.5% decrease in employee turnover and, on a per-employee basis, $27,044 more in sales, $18,641 more in market value, and $3,814 more in profit.
Moreover, the study found that while it is helpful for your HR strategy to be based on industry best practices, aligning with your company’s business strategy has an even stronger impact.
Great HR leaders must, therefore, customize their approach based on real-time mission critical issues happening in their respective organizations. It’s also incumbent on them to make these priorities clear to every member of the HR department. They must cultivate young talent and spread responsibilities among a wide-range of direct reports to ensure policies are integrated seamlessly across all levels of the organization.
2. Develop employee-friendly policies that won’t break the bank
Despite record stock market numbers, many businesses remain reticent when it comes to spending following the 2008 financial crisis. The inability to offer large financial raises, coupled with millennials’ preference for a good work-life balance, means that HR leaders must create a positive company culture without breaking the bank.
While allowing employees to work remotely one day per week is great, it is not unique. Great HR leaders must be creative to differentiate from the competition.
As an example, given that Americans currently owe a record $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, companies such as Aetna, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Fidelity have allowed their employees to choose between a 401(k) match plan or help paying off their student loans. This flexible solution isn’t costing additional money, and it’s had a wonderful impact on company culture by customizing benefits for each individual employee based on their unique needs.
In fact, strong company culture has shown to boost revenue and profits. According to the Aberdeen Group, companies with formalized employee engagement programs have 26% greater average revenue growth than those who do not.
3. Build a great talent pipeline
To be successful, HR leaders must always be recruiting. Reactive recruiting leads to bad hires, which, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, can cost a company more than 30% of an employee’s first-year earnings. It’s critical to build a deep, diverse bench in case an employee takes a new job or becomes ill.
In the current opioid crisis, two-thirds of Americans abusing painkillers are employed, which means their performance is likely to suffer, and they may need to seek treatment or be replaced.
To prepare for the unexpected, HR leaders must network — physically at conferences and events — and virtually through digital and social media. To widen their networks, they should host job fairs at colleges known for their diversity to bring in fresh talent, ideas and new perspectives; and they should hire based on a person’s DNA and not just their resume.
4. Engage the board in hiring decisions 
Remember the time you hired that VP of sales who didn’t make his/her numbers? You are not alone. In fact, Glassdoor and the Brandon Hall Group found that a staggering 95% of employers admitted to making bad hires.
As an HR professional, the way to mitigate fallout from making inevitable bad hires is to engage the board in the process and get their buy-in. This way if the employee fails to perform, you will not be held solely accountable.
Moreover, by working more closely with members of the C-suite, you’ll better understand the strategic priorities of the organization and make better hires.  This will improve the performance of the organization and can help cement your seat at the C-suite table.
While the challenges for HR leaders are great, there has never been more opportunity for them to impact a company’s bottom line. By following the tips above, HR leaders will get to work more closely with executives and may even earn themselves that elusive seat at the C-suite table.
Keith Johnstone is the Head of Marketing at Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company launched in 2006. It works with a wide-range of clients including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Taser and others. Keith leads all marketing activities and has successfully grown revenue and lead volume every quarter. Follow @KJ_Peak