There’s no doubt that HR is often overlooked when it comes to making key business decisions. Practitioners usually only hear of new initiatives when they need to put policies and resources in place to support them.
If HR is to improve their influence, practitioners need to show they can add value to strategic business discussions. They need to help the board understand the additional insight that people metrics can bring.
So, what are the key insights that the profession can bring to the table?
1. A clear overview of skills
Companies rarely have a clear view of available skills. Some skills are hidden because they aren’t being used in the employee’s current role. You may have a fluent German speaker, for example, whose skills haven’t come to light because languages are not called for in their current position.
The latest generation HR systems allow the business to compile skills maps so that it can identify critical skills gaps. So, you can plan ahead for any training that may be needed to support future growth and make full use of the expertise you already have.
2. Solid Succession planning
Performance management systems can also help to manage the vital ‘intelligence.’ Often companies believe they have a solid succession plan in place, but find it doesn’t deliver the goods. If managers aren’t having open and honest conversations with their people, important details about individual aspirations, global mobility, or training needs aren’t recorded.
It’s no good earmarking someone as the next head of one of your European sales offices, for example, if they have absolutely no desire to relocate or are planning to retrain for a completely different career. HR software can’t have the conversation for you, but it does provide a central place where information about people’s ambitions and potential can be housed and easily accessible.
3. Industry insights
The best HR practitioners are able to add a valuable external perspective too. They have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the sector and a good sense of where the next challenges and opportunities will come from.
Through their relationships with local and specialist agencies, they also have a good sense of the recruitment market and can pick up on early indications of skills shortages and the type of staff that are likely to be in high demand.
Forward-looking HR practitioners are well networked and, through their involvement with professional bodies, are able to draw on best people management practice from other industries or from companies with similar challenges.
4. Potential derailers
HR software systems can also provide vital early warning signs of issues that may derail a planned expansion or reorganisation. It can track starters and leavers so that the business can see if a retention issue is beginning to emerge.
Managers can act early to find out what is causing a lack of engagement and take appropriate action. Rising absence levels can also be an indicator that all is not well in some areas. The metrics can be broken down across departments and teams to get a useful perspective. It’s possible that workloads or management cultures may need to be re-examined.
5. Reliable Information about resourcing
It’s vital to have an accurate picture of resourcing needs if the business is planning to launch new projects. Many of the latest software systems now come with time modules.
They can help managers get a clear picture of the hours spent against particular projects. Or, the amount of overtime recorded against certain activities. It makes it much easier to get a true picture of the amount of human and financial resources that will be needed. And to assure success.