We’re taking a look at common challenges that executives face when shifting focus to become a strategic HR advisor.

You might have hit that new milestone—growth metrics, an acquisition, etc. Your organization has executed on a number of initiatives, you’ve seen results, employee engagement is on the rise and now you have an opportunity to chime in as a strategic HR advisor.

We’ll be the first to say, this is an exciting place to be in. Companies across the globe are realizingthe tremendous impactengagement programs can have, which adds some extra eagerness to get started and implement as many new organizational development solutions as possible.

Before you dive into being a strategic HR advisor, we’d like to share some tips to avoid common pitfalls that executives and other organizational leaders face.

Forgetting to be employee-first

If the primary focus of the business is its customers, the primary focus of HR should be its customers too—employees. HR teams can’t forget their employees are their number one client. The goal of HR isn’t just to create mitigations and legal protections for a company, it’s to engage employees and create workspaces where they feel like they belong.

There’s a strong case for employee engagement programs, including possibly improving revenue and employee performance. Being employee first and treating them like customers isn’t just right for the employees, it’s right for the business.

HR teams not following their own advice

As departments place more and more emphasis on being strategic HR advisors, there is a tendency by HR executives to overlook their own backyard and what happens next is the HR team is completely overlooked in key initiatives.

Are you looking to roll-out a new wellbeing survey? Did you testing new team assessment tools or unconscious bias training? Anytime you roll-out new HR initiatives or campaigns for the business, make sure you’re also willing to apply them to the HR org. Nothing seems more hypocritical than HR teams forcing initiatives on the business that they aren’t also using.

An easy way to avoid this pitfall is to always test your new programs within your HR team first. Then, you’ll be able to spot shortcomings and get feedback from a group that’s trained to spot employee experience gaps. Once the programs match the wants of the company and address employee needs, you’re set for a larger roll-out.

Buying and using tools that don’t work

When you become a strategic HR advisor to the business, you’ll likely need to start looking for solutions in the marketplace that will help cut down on administrative and tactical tasks. You’ll quickly find that there’s a fast growing industry that’s built around HR tools and technology. Many of these companies tout themselves as the next big solution to your problems, but they don’t all follow through with their pitches.

Always remember, there’s no one-size fits all solution for any HR problem. Each company has different needs and circumstances. Maintain a healthy skepticism when you’re hunting for tools, and double check with sellers that their tools can do the exact things that you need. It’s not uncommon for vendors to market tools as one thing, only for buyers to find out later that the features they need don’t exist or require an upgrade. Buyers then go on to buy more tools in a vicious and unhelpful cycle.

Challenges with collaboration within HR

Organizations have limited resources, and this is certainly the case with most Human Resources departments. All of the challenges that companies have faced over the last year have created unforeseen demands on HR and there has also been scarcity resources. When it comes to HR, this can cause major problems.

HR orgs are complex, with various functions and sub-functions. They have different core purposes, but each serve larger and important HR goals. When you’re allocating company resources and channels, make sure not to pit groups as competition against one another. Always remember that HR groups work in tandem, and they’re complimentary. Once you get the entire HR team to align on strategy, they’ll be quicker to align on business resources

Leveraging data to drive decisions

Thanks to the resurgence in employee engagement programs (and the uptick in survey and feedback gathering during the pandemic), companies are gathering more data on their people than ever before. They’ve realized workforce data is a must-have, but companies aren’t always finding cohesive ways to connect the dots of their findings.

Connecting dots might mean that you need to hire new, data-minded HR people. At the least, it means you have to stay patient until you’re able to realize the story that your data is telling you. Some stories are obvious (like direct and specific employee concerns), but others will require your prodding and searching to understand trends (like why turnover happens or insights about employee tenure). Whatever the story, make the most of your data, then act on it when you find answers. This will help build credibility and solidify your place as a strategic HR advisor.

Most of all, stay patient

When working through your HR transformation from an administrative function to strategic function, it’s easy to set expectations high and get frustrated by all the various challenges. You want perceptions of your function to change ASAP, and you wanted them changed yesterday. Know that this type of enthusiasm and assertiveness will get you to the finish line, but lasting changes take time. HR has to allow for trends and data to be understood, and give employees time to see action and real change in the business.

We’re excited that you’ve embarked on this employee engagement journey, and we know your employees and business will be too. Stay connected with our blog for more insights, and make sure to join us in conversation with The Modern People Leader podcast.

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