Everywhere we turn these days as HR professionals, we see something about a complete overhaul of HR being needed for us to remain relevant. Deloitte just published Reinventing HR which points to what needs to be fixed.
We can all agree that we need to change and we want to change, but where we fall down is how. I am not sure about you, but I have not been granted an unlimited budget from my Chief People Officer to make all the changes needed, no matter how nicely I ask. So, how do we make this shift on teams with limited resources? In this series, I am going to walk through what we need to do.
So. . . strategic partner. This can mean a lot of different things. How do you actually become a strategic partner? Is there a secret handshake to get into the club. Well, yes, kinda of.
To be a strategic partner there are two steps I take when I start supporting a new team: Listen and Ask lots of questions. Sounds pretty simple but it combines with one other major factor, credibility.
First, I sit down with the leader of the group and ask her what she is trying to accomplish in the next 12-18 months. If she has a product roadmap, I like to review that as well. Now, here is the thing, depending on how technical the team is, this might take some time because this is where I ask a lot of questions too. I need to understand, at least at a high level, what they are trying to achieve. Then we transition to talking about her team. I ask this question- Does she have the right team in place to accomplish everything needed on the roadmap? If not, we start walking through what is needed and where there are holes.
Second, I like to look at the data. Employee surveys, attrition, recruiting numbers, and the brand of the team (I ask around), anything I can get my hands on to understand the bigger picture.
Now that I have a high level view and some data to dig into, I turn to the team. Having bi-weekly meetings with each member of the 2nd level of leadership gives me a good picture of the organizational strengths and opportunities. If this differs from the senior leader, this is telling. We will dig into that in another blog.
This is where I try to learn about the individuals on the team. I ask these leaders who their core team members are and who they think I should meet. I also ask them to walk me through the product roadmap and I ask more questions (again, trying to understand). This is also a gauge for their leadership. Someone at a VP or Director level should be able to explain in laymen’s terms what they are trying to accomplish.
Now, remember I mentioned credibility? That is the kicker. While I am asking questions and trying to learn and understand the plan, I still need to be credible. That means asking good questions that show I have a clue. It means listening actively to understand what the leadership team is trying to tell me. It means following up on their questions and doing the “brilliant basics” of HR while I am learning the business.
Now– you might still be asking– how are questions and credibililty going to make me strategic? Once you understand the product roadmap (or 12-18 month plan) you will be better equipped to give good counsel to the leadership team about their people. You will be able to not just sit at the table but have a voice and an opinion on what the team should do to succeed. Ask to be included in team meetings, ask to attend planning sessions- and contribute. Don’t just sit there as the HR person in the room. Contribute to the people discussions, contribute to how they are going to get things done with the people they have or what can be done with the people they have to make them better prepared to achieve the goals. Give them insights into what you are hearing. Contribute your HR expertise to the conversation and guess what, the business will start wanting you there more often and including you in the conversation earlier- this makes you more strategic. This makes you an asset to the leadership team.
Come back next week for the next installment in “Just Tell Me How to Be a Better HRBP”