C-Level Executives That Empower Their Human Resource Teams

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There is a power in understanding the expectations of C-Level Executives so that HR can best partner with them to create positive organizational change .The Seacoast and Manchester HR Associations brought together CEO, CFO and CAOs who realize the need to have HR included as a key player. Sojourn Partner’s goal in this panel discussion and workshop was to help empower the Human Resource professionals to be seen as a core partner in company strategy. Our distinguished panel included executives from healthcare, nonprofits, manufacturing, international business and Insurance. Here are the top 12 key observations from panelists and post panel table discussions:

1.    Show the Numbers
Map everything back to the numbers. C-Level executives are responsible for the overall financial strength of the organization.  They have lots of priorities that they are working on and they need to constantly consider the return on investment. Be able to say what will be enhanced and how. Use numbers to back it up. For example, an initiative will increase employee satisfaction survey scores by 10%.  Or use statistics from articles and reviews, “There is a 700% return on investment for executive coaching.” Or by finding other comparable companies and show the impact an initiative made for them “New on-boarding program reduced turnover by 25%”. Without some way to measure, your ideas will not make the priority list.

2.    Come Prepared
When bringing initiatives or points of view to the C-level, you have to do your homework. Show what you want, explain why you want it and show the benefit of it. If you want to add a holiday, tell the C-Suite why it is important for the company to do that right now. Answer questions like “Are there not enough holidays in comparison to the market?” or “Does it fulfill a cultural need?” or “What will be the overall gain / benefit in adding the day?”  If implementing a new structure, think through the impact to the environment as a whole. Consider: What other areas will this effect? What is the impact on different locations, the end user, the financials or the overall organization? Are there other possible solutions? How does this link to an over-arching strategy?  Be ready to answer questions that you know you C-level is going to ask before they ask!

3.    Know the Business of Your Business
Great HR Professionals understand not only the human capital aspect but also the work that the organization does. Spend time with the department heads to find out what is going on in their business, what is working for them and what barriers they are bumping up against. Get out into the field proactively to understand the needs and the environment.

4.    Start Small By Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruit
Get some small wins to gain credibility. Look for the low hanging fruit and make sure that you can create a win and then link it back to the numbers. Examples might include:  implementing a wellness program that can decrease insurance costs for the entire company, taking a small group through a leadership program to increase management competencies or creating an on-boarding process that decreases administrative time. With some small wins you will have the trust and respect to bring strategic initiatives forward that may appear less tangible.

5.    Own That You Are A Mentor
Create a partnership with your C-Suite by asking powerful questions, being a confidant and challenging the executives. Show them that you are thinking by sharing your perspective even if it doesn’t coincide with theirs. C-Level executives respect people who think and challenge them instead of just always saying “yes”.  Know that you have a right to be a mentor because executives can’t know it all and they need your help to support their efforts. Own that your purpose is to bridge the business with the human talent, you are needed and if you step into the role confidently you will be wanted.

6.    Start a Dialog
Don’t just come in with a plan and push it on everyone. Be open to a dialog with people. Bring in the top executives and the people on the ground in the room together to start the conversation. This will allow for a co-developed plan which is stronger and because it has everyone’s input, it will be more likely to be implemented.

7.    Approach Based on the Personality
When bringing information to the C-Suite, think of their personality. If you are approaching someone who thinks high level, don’t bring every detail out in the meeting. If you do, they will only hear part of what you are saying. You also need to consider what is important to them and how what you are bringing to the conversation will help them solve their pain or honor the values that are inherent within them.

8.    Your Brand is Key
Even though there is a range of responsibilities you carry, HR professionals in our audience encourage you to pay attention to the details.  Small mistakes, such as entering someone’s name incorrectly or misplaced numbers on reports, can quickly chip away at your credibility. Focus your team on thinking of outputs from HR as marketing materials that pull together to build the brand you deserve within the company.

9.    Find Other Advocates
If you want something to go through, find others who can help make it happen. Don’t just try to do it alone.  Meet one-on-one to help discover where they are on the subject and see where there is a natural match to what you are trying to do. Advocates can be on all levels of the organization. Consider who has influence over the decision-makers and see if they would be willing to support you. A little politics is a good thing.

10.    Ask and Ask Again
First – you must ask because if you don’t the answer will be No.
Second – don’t take a No as a No forever.
Keep asking! Adjust what you are bringing to them to fulfill their needs but don’t let it go! The persistence is key especially if you know it is for the greater good of the people and thus the company.

11.    Build Relationships
It’s all about the relationships you have with the C-Suite and all throughout the company. Take time to “be with” people where they are and be ready to help them. Whether that is by asking their opinion, making sure they understand benefits or helping them understand why a particular policy is coming through.  If you are seen as a trusted confidant (not just an administrative doer) you will be brought into conversations proactively rather than re-actively.

12.    Communicate
Even if you can’t resolve an issue today, let people know you have heard them and the plan even if it isn’t in the near future. If it isn’t ever possible let them know why. Tell people what you are thinking and the reasoning behind what is happening.  Communicating also means reaching out and helping your executives reach the people in a meaningful way. You know how to do this and you can use technology to make it easy for them to encourage and stay connected to the masses.

The C Suite needs you as their partner. We hope you take these suggestions as well as those found in our latest book The Future of Everything: Strategies for Successful Business Behavior and put them into action.

Many thanks to the C Suite Panel including Linda Gavin CFO : On Call International , Kevin Goyette CFO: RiverWoods, Marc Smith President & CEO: XMA Corporation, Catherine Lamson Senior VP & Chief Administration Officer: MEMIC and Larry Gammon President & CEO: Easter Seals New Hampshire.

About Sojourn

Sojourn Partners is a results-driven executive leadership coaching firm that empowers the professional workforce to think differently in order to realize the full return on investment in themselves and their companies. Professional leadership thinking and intervention, based on years of research and experience, place Sojourn Partners at the forefront in executive leadership coaching, organizational development, strategic planning and culture and climate change.


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