is HR really ready to sit at the boardroom table?

September 26, 2014

to deliver to C-suite expectations, smart CHROs are engaging external expertise to fulfill talent ambitions

Working with many of Randstad’s global customers, I get the opportunity to regularly speak with CEOs, and while they have a lot of strategic priorities in today’s fast-changing world of work, one thing consistently tops their priority list is talent – the attraction, engagement, and retention of the right talent that drives their business more quickly and effectively than the competition. And I think this makes HR and talent acquisition professionals the most important people in an organization right now, as they aim to set and shape strategy at the boardroom table.

So if you haven’t noticed, HR is embracing a new mantra in today’s competitive talent environment. Truly forward-thinking HR leaders are seeing the opportunity to provide their companies a competitive advantage, and they are transforming their organization in support of this pursuit. By calculating the financial business impact of a holistic talent strategy that will set their business apart, these executives are clearly demonstrating they understand what the C-suite needs from the HR function.

 

Talent-centric transformation

From our experience working with many proactive organizations, we see HR leaders transforming both their permanent workforce and their contingent labor. That’s because they understand that combining the two in a strategic approach to leverage human capital is the only assured way for their organization to be powerful and agile. They also know it’s what the CEO expects of HR leadership and the right way to answer the HR critics.

(See my video comment from #SOSU 2014)

Back in 2005, Fast Company magazine published a landmark article entitled, “Why We Hate HR.” It was a condemnation of HR leaders for their inability to focus on acquiring the talent critical to business performance. Instead, the author stated, HR whiled away on activities and process gains that had little impact on top-line growth. 

More recently, in the July/August 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review, author and consultant Ram Charan suggests in “It’s Time to Split HR” that the HR function should be remade into two parts: one that administers benefits and compensation and another that serves as a pipeline for nurturing talent for leadership roles. Charan maintains that the latter would help drive organizational performance through its people and social system.

Additionally, in PwC’s 2014 global survey of CEOs, 93% are changing or see the need to change their strategies for attracting or retaining talent. This comes as 63% of PwC’s respondents said the availability of skills is one of the top threats to their business plans.

 

Aligning strategy to the business

HR has always strived for a seat at the table, and now that imperative is more urgent than ever. In our work with HR leaders, we see the scenario painted by Charan and the PwC’s survey as partly accurate. It’s true acquiring critical talent has grown increasingly difficult, and more than ever companies need to better align talent strategies with their business goals. We also see senior HR leaders pulled in many directions tending to issues such as benefits administration and compensation planning. And it is certainly true that these leaders are highly concerned with process efficiency and ensuring compliance throughout the organization.

However, broad-stroke criticism that portrays HR failing on talent just isn’t fair, at least from our experience. In many partnerships we have with HR, client owners are highly fixated on winning talent; after all this is the reason they outsourced in the first place. Many recognized they weren’t able to acquire business-critical skills with internal resources and looked externally to a best-in-class solution. Great leaders recognize what they are good at, what they’re not and understand the skills they can’t necessarily find or need in their own organization - and this means they aren’t afraid to ask for help.

Many of our clients are fully aware of the need for innovative solutions that will help them win talent. So all across the world, we are now providing more consultative and value-added services such as international talent mapping and sourcing, employer branding, talent analytics, and workforce planning. We often initiate these conversations, but it’s also typical for the HR sponsor to strike up the conversation. It clearly indicates they are identifying how they can tackle talent challenges with speed and are taking critical steps to shore up the gaps through outsourcing.

 

Moving beyond the haphazard dance

Another clear indication that HR is becoming more talent-centric is their approach to optimizing the workforce throughout the organization. In the past, the administration of contingent workers fell squarely outside HR’s mandate. The selection and administration of temp and freelancers was often a haphazard dance between procurement and hiring managers. Not so any more.

HR leaders at many companies now see the importance of optimizing the fastest-growing segment of their workforce, and they increasingly work with procurement leaders to ensure the organization acquires the most effective talent to drive business performance. To do so, they often approach us to help them build an integrated talent solution through inhouse and outsourced solutions. Whether it’s an MSP, RPO or combined program, the tools they seek to employ are helping them to meet the desires of their C-suite and make a positive business impact.

Is outsourcing the answer to every organization’s talent crisis? Saying yes might well be self-serving you say, and many global companies acquire the talent they need just fine on their own. But to those still struggling, maybe it’s time to consider the options that will help you deliver the world-class talent that will set your organization apart – and most importantly, create your seat at the boardroom table permanently.

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