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You Want Your HR Team Aligned with the Business? I'll Keep It Simple For You...

Like many HR bloggers, I get questions from the field on the best way to approach issues from time to time.  I've never been a Q&A type of guy, instead preferring to go with topical writing on an area that interests me.  I still try to answer all the questions to the best of my ability, but rarely post one.

This one's different.  I love it when people ask the best way for HR pros to be strategic and aligned with theBureaucrat business, because it tends to get me all cranked up about the difference between buzzwords and action.  Here's the question from an HR pro friend of mine over in India:

"Kris - what's the best way for our company to ensure our HR Team is aligned with the business?

Here's the situation - Company grows fast and enjoys huge success and visibility. During happier times everything seems all right, but during challenging times the cracks surface up. There is a visible feel that things are not the same as they were. HR is perceived to be bureaucratic, arrogant and the service response too is wanting. Questioning and introspection begins. HR and business seem to be cross purposes. I am sure all of it sounds extremely familiar.
The HR function, especially the senior management team, now wish to reevaluate if they are measuring the right things as far as their own individual goals are concerned.  Jon Ingham has replied in his recent post that we need to look at cascading goals, HR competencies and the 3 levels of the value triangle.
Some top of the mind examples could be typical KPI’s like:

1. Operations Costs of HR
2. Operating Profit per employee
3. Overall employee productivity
4. Employee Satisfaction Score
5. Employee Development Index
6. Employee Motivation Index
All of this will evolve, however for now what I was really looking at was a starting block. What would be the typical measures that a high performing organization should have for its senior HR members?"

Here's the problem - I can tell you that all the factors he's listed above are nice measures, and important on some level to the big picture.  None of them by themselves, or perhaps even together, cause HR pros to be aligned with the business.  I respect Jon Ingham a lot, so what he covers on this post undoubtedly has truth in it.

Now, I'll simplify it for you.  You want alignment with the business?  Make sure every HR pro you have on your team, from HR Coordinator to EVP/Darth Vader of HR, is A RECRUITER as part of their job.  If you want alignment, there's no better way to get it than to force everyone in the department to recruit for the client group they serve.

Think about what's included in recruiting internally for a hiring manager - needs analysis, market research, performance management expectations, comp analysis, employee relations reviews (why did the last person leave/didn't work out), selling the company, closing the deal, etc. - all while trying to exceed the hiring manager's expectations.

So, if you want alignment, make everyone recruit.  It's a humbling experience, and there's no better way to get your HR shop aligned.  Now you can say, "but there's so much to do and I need most of my team doing other things"...

It's OK if you say that.  Just remember that by saying that, you're really saying you have "process" to create, which is another way to say that you're drifting towards bureaucracy. 

If you want alignment, make your HR pros recruit.  It's the quickest way to cut through the BS and get to what's real. 


Tim Sackett

KD -

Interesting that there aren't a bunch of comments on this post. Seems like the HR Pros were looking for another answer, beyond you need to recruit! That is a little to hands-on and dirty, isn't there another way for us HR Pros to be aligned with our business partners!?!

I can think of one - get out a build an actual relationship with operations, that isn't a file audit, or some other kind of HR administrative nightmare for them to deal with. How about just spending some time with one of the sales guy on a call. Or going down to the production line and just talking with the supervisors about what frustrates them. Then just sit back and enjoy the ride. Perception is reality - and the perception is from operations that you don't understand us, thus you aren't aligned. Build the relationship and the perception will be you now understand us, and you are a HR Rock Star!

Build it and see what happens.


Kris, I think that's a good suggestion. Although, does it really have to be recruitment? - a good L&D person is going to have to understand what the business is about as well. Or how about someone working on talent and succession. All deeply linked to the strategic focus of the business. Or should be.

Actually, what I think I really liked about your post is as well as measurement, it emphasises the need to build alignment in / to ensure that people have to be aligned - potentially by focusing them on recruitment (or something else).

I think this is behind what I was thinking when I wrote: "However, my experience suggests that identifying HR measures is never actually that hard. When it is, it is because the objectives that you’re trying to measure still aren’t clear."

I then went on to write about the need to ensure the person's organisation understand what they mean by alignment.

But I think you're point's much better. Ensure that people are doing things which are aligned with the business. That require them to understand what the business is about.

Then you don't need to bother to measure it.

Kris Dunn

Tim and Jon -

Good calls. While I've focused on the need to recruit to get alignment, you are correct - there are many ways to do it, but all involve one key element - engaging the people you serve in an organization and getting off your butt to put yourself "out there" and creating something of value.

One of the reasons I focus on recruiting (other than the fact that I enjoy it..)is that it's results focused - you either filled the position or your didn't, and the hiring manager is either thrilled with the hire or they arent... Results are good, because we don't have enough of them in HR...

Good stuff, thanks for stopping by....


I'd add - go do the job that makes your company money. Do it repeatedly, if possible. Just quietly make yourself useful in whatever warehouse, sales meeting, or product training session you can finagle your way into. Learn. And don't bother anyone with smart-mouth suggestions about how to do it better/faster/more effectively. That will shoot your chances of being allowed on the floor ever again. Just show respect to the people who pay your salary with their hard work, and then use what you're learning to recruit, train, and develop HR programs that are relevant to the people who are tied to the bottom line.

Kris Dunn

Hey Franny -

Nice! Can I cut and paste that into my post?

Well said...



Of course!

Johnny Rotten

This may be a slightly trite point, but surely HR will be far more effective if it is given a voice at the board table.

I agree that HR needs to learn and listen to the needs of the business, but unless HR is actively involved in setting the business strategy (which involves increasing productivity through recruiting and retaining more of the right people), it will always been seen as an overhead.

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