If you want a seat at the table, learn the business

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    In my previous post, I mentioned the evolution of the HR professional into a strategic business partner and the necessity of this evolution for successful business. However, in many companies HR does not occupy a seat at the strategic planning table. Who’s to blame?

    The answer to this question is hotly debated and often clear lines are drawn between those in HR and those in other functions. Many HR professionals blame the leaders for not seeing the value of their function to the organization, while some managers see HR as the roadblock to doing what needs to be done.

    In a 2005 article written by Fast Company Magazine’s Keith Hammonds, Keith purports all the reasons “Why We Hate HR.” If the title itself isn’t enough to put a HR professional on the defense, then providing the declaration that “HR people aren’t the sharpest tacks in the box” as the first reason certainly will. His assertion in the article is that those who enter the HR field are not business people and are ill-equipped to understand business. He quotes a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study that identified which coursework HR professionals found most beneficial to their success in the field to support his message that the majority of those working in the field do not see understanding business as necessary to their success. The results showed that coursework in communications, business law, and ethics were most beneficial.

    A recently released SHRM survey of HR leaders indicates the same finding. The respondents in the U.S. indicated that strategic thinking is one of the top five competencies needed for senior HR leaders; however, business knowledge was not listed. While the lineage of the field of HR coupled with the introduction of legislation to protect employers may have contributed to stereotypes that exist in the field about the HR profession, our failure as HR professionals to recognize that we are business people charged with the company’s most valuable assets will certainly continue to harbor those stereotypes we so emotionally defend. If you want a seat at the table, learn the business of business and speak the language of the executive team.

    As always, your thoughts and questions are encouraged.

    For more resources, See the Human Resources library.