So, I have had some great conversations over the past day or so with some colleagues who read my post and had some interesting feedback (auto tweet posting has increased my readership by 700% dod). I will try to summarize them here as they all had value.
1) HR people tend to treat their career path as “HR”. Meaning that they do not specialize in any industry in particular. They might work in manufacturing for a few year, move into advertising etc… They can do this because their area of expertise is HR, not an industry. Other organizational roles tend to be industry specific. Therefore it is not unlikely that the head of HR sitting at the “table” with other execs does not have the insight and knowledge into the business that they have, having worked in the industry (finance, media, manufacturing) for 20+ years to get to where they are. For an HR person to get an equal seat they would have to show their expertise in the industry they are in that could match any of the other execs. A HR head with a client facing or finance background would be a huge asset and would easily “get a seat”.
2) Thanks to Ben for his comment about HR needing to recruit from the business. Very true and gives some critical insight into the HR world. HR people don’t want to work on the business side. We like our work/life balance, what we do and the freedom we get. It would take a heck of a lot of money for me to move into a sales or client facing role that would totally disrupt my life. I like to think I am good at what I do and that’s what keeps me employed, but I don’t necessarily work as hard as others do (in my HR role that is), which may prevent me from getting an equal seat.The down side is that it also could prevent me from moving forward. Which is why I get involved with customer service and strategic planning, the business side. Which leads to point 3.
3) HR is not that hard. It really isn’t. I could outsource 75% of what I do. Sure, that might not be cost effective, but it also means that completion of my responsibilities is not solely dependent on me. In growing companies it is the last “new” role hired because up until that point someone has been doing it as a part of their job. To be really good at HR you can’t just do your job. You need to be innovative and indispensable. How many HR people are really indispensable? To get equal say you need to be adding tremendous value to the business. Not just keeping costs down, but increasing revenue and profitability. How many HR people can claim that they can do this. Do it and you get a seat.
The 3rd point is something I keep stressing to my interns, don’t worry about HR you can learn that pretty easily, learn about the business so that you can figure out how to add value to it through your role. I think anyone wanting to get into HR should intern in finance in the industry they want to get into, that way they truly get the business. It is the only way you can become innovative and indispensable. Current HR metrics (time to hire, lowering costs, training hours) are nice, but they don’t make you indispensable. Sorry.