With all the new expectations in HR, leaders should ask for the investments they need.
It really annoys me that there are far too many HR professionals who don’t get the respect, authority, appreciation and empowerment they really deserve. In August, when I first got involved in HR through the Diversity and Inclusion side door, I continued to hear my colleagues talk about wanting to “get a seat at the table”. Hearing this made me extremely curious, and as I learned more, I was puzzled to find that, for years, many of them had even struggled to be invited to parties. management meetings or to have a direct relationship with the highest person.
Fortunately, we’ve come a long, long way as a function (and as professionals) since then! As I shared in my first EDH column at the start of the pandemic, the “roaring twenties” are indeed the time for HR to roar. The Great Recession is now seen as a time that led to the “rise of the CFO,” and this brutal pandemic is increasingly elevating personnel managers and their teams to a new level of importance. Successful research firms shared stories of Fortune 500 companies replacing HRDs who were not considered capable of scaling up and leading forward during such a critical time. Board members and senior executives have never needed and valued the role of HR so much; in fact, many recruiters have more HR jobs available than they can fill.
But just like other things that these high-level stakeholders proclaim they want (innovation, flatter organizations, more diverse workforce), there is often a great canyon that exists between stated commitments and implementing the actions necessary to bring about real change and achieve these goals. The exact same thing is happening in HR: In this second war for talent (another trend I’ve written about), these executives are more focused on HR than ever. But are they really preparing us for success?
From what I hear from countless HR professionals across the country and the world, expectations regarding their reach, speed of adaptation, and ability to solve long-standing human problems are increasing much faster than their capacity (and their resources) to meet them. This is a huge risk to HR functions and the career of anyone working in human operations, as this heightened focus on HR could easily make us the scapegoat for organizational challenges that we do not fully own. Think of it as resentment in escrow.
So what do we do about it? Ask for money, a lot of money. I mean in the 2022 budgets you’re working on right now (and maybe your compensation too). If HR were to be fully outsourced and the scope of work changed massively (read: Hiring in an impossible talent market, determining a moving target of a return to the office, making huge strides around DEI, understanding the hybrid work, deploy a bunch of software, make sure people stay engaged even though our employee experience is built around the office, on board virtually and make sure our best people don’t quit), then you’d expect this that your third-party vendor submits a fairly massive change order. More reach, more money.
But most HR departments only ask for extremely marginal increases in their budget (if they even ask for anything). The math literally doesn’t match when we do this – agreeing to deliver massively more without the support and empowerment we need to be successful. A consulting partner I worked for called them “milking mice”. When we use a previous year’s budget and keep it at the same level, or only increase it by a few percentage points, then we’re not doing what the best CFOs insist on: zero-based budgets to build on. , from bottom to top, which is really necessary in today’s reality.
The secret that HR doesn’t often know is that CFOs do a great job of lowering expectations about budgets, or even intimidating their colleagues, so that they can ‘control the spending’ – when in fact. in reality, it is often the CEO who makes the final decision. call. Budgets are a game, a negotiation, and the resulting budgets are ultimately a reflection of what the organization values. Too many HR managers I’m talking to right now are literally negotiating against themselves, too afraid to rock the boat or be faced with rejection by putting budgets in place that reflect the real resources needed to move the needle forward. . (By the way, have you ever heard of an HR employee who was fired for asking for a big budget? Me neither.)
If you want to be taken seriously, to have the “executive presence” that you may have received comments from, then calmly ask for (and justify) a huge budget increase. Whatever the outcome, I have no doubts that you will earn the respect of your colleagues and feel proud of yourself for “going big”. One transferable skill that I’ve learned on a nonprofit board is that people respect you more for asking for more. And if we are entrusted with the resources that we defend, then of course we are obligated to deliver them.
It is not our job to say “no” to ourselves. And when we say ‘yes’ to huge increases in reach without accompanying resources, we are communicating in return that we were previously overfunded or underutilized as a function, which reduces our credibility and erodes trust with them. senior executives.
Read more ideas from Ben Brooks here.
So ignore the advice that finance has given you regarding your budgets. Build the resource plan, including both headcount as well as more and more third-party services like software and professional services (which are faster to deploy and easier to turn off during lean times) that will prepare you for the success. Be clear about the consequences of not getting the increases by forcing a ruthless prioritization (“Here’s what we can’t do without the budget”). Getting leaders to make tough choices.
We need to stop being complicit in delivering programs and running a “cheap” function. This is improper and, in the end, it only fails our organizations. We teach people how to treat us, and just like employee compensation, the squeaky wheel gets the fat. Go big my friends!