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Why does HR have to clamor for a seat at the table?

Source | LinkeIn : By Kinjal Choudhary

I have never come across anyone saying “Finance/ Marketing/ Sales/ Manufacturing has a seat at the table in our organization”. However, I have heard several people say the same thing about HR. This implies that HR has a seat at the table by exception and not as a rule. What causes this to happen if it is not true for any of the other Functions in a business?

There are four reasons for this and, for most of it, we HR professionals are to be blamed. One caveat I must add that there are several HR professionals I have had the chance to work with who had a legitimate seat on the table and they never had to ask for one. What differentiated those few from the larger masses in HR Function?

  1. Knowing the business inside out and outside in.
  2. Metricizing the HR Function
  3. Holding ourselves (HR) accountable for the results
  4. Ability to link deep functional expertise to business imperatives

First, many of us in HR have historically not considered it either important or of relevance to know our business. We have traditionally focused on people issues in the organization sans the business in which the organization operates. HR can never get the proverbial seat on the table unless they understand the business of being on the table. In other words, to be effective and meaningful, HR needs to master, yes not just understand, the business. The manifestation of knowing the business is when an HR person can make a presentation on Sales in a business review better than the concerned Sales person could do. Or when an HR person could explain the financials to the management team with the same ease and comfort that the Finance person would be able to do. Or how many HR professionals can explain customer behavior or shopping patterns better than their Marketing counterparts would be? The tough news is that this requires an in-depth understanding of the business. However, the good news is that except for rocket science, nothing else really is rocket science. And this is certainly not rocket science. Hence it is not difficult to do so if one really makes an effort. However, most of us in HR, hesitate to make that effort and feel that we can get away without the business knowledge to that extent since “after all, we are HR”.  Sure we can; but we would also get away from the seat on the table and then there is no point in clamoring to claim that seat.

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