Give HR a Seat at the Leadership Table

Involve human resources leaders in strategic planning and corporate strategy.

April 21, 2014

Despite the fact that staff compensation accounts for the bulk of most companies’ expenses, human resources (HR) executives too often are left out of the strategic planning process, says Shawn Gilfedder, CEO of $310 million asset McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union in East Windsor, N.J.

“It is only logical to think that those who are responsible for acquiring or managing the talent would be invited to these discussions,” Gilfedder says.

That is becoming more common at U.S. companies, he says, evidenced by the growing number of HR professionals with the title of chief HR officer. “Individuals in this position are involved in corporate strategy and planning,” he say, “particularly in the area of human capital and overall HR management.”

Gilfedder recently shared with Credit Union Magazine his thoughts on the need for HR representation at the top level of the org chart.

CU Mag: What you do you see as the role of HR in corporate management and strategic planning?

Shawn Gilfedder
Shawn Gilfedder

Gilfedder: We looked at analysis from the Economist in 2012 and saw very interesting information about the level of engagement between HR leadership and CEOs and chief financial officers (CFOs).

When CEOs and CFOs talked about their HR leaders, they put talent management and performance at the high end of the scale, but then put succession planning at the low end.

I expect succession planning to move further up into the spectrum when organizations place a focus on the future by developing talent and finding the next leaders within an organization.

When this occurs HR leaders will have a greater level of engagement in strategy discussions and planning.

Often, HR leaders are focused either on the data, the analytics, or the tactics of their jobs. They need to elevate their discussions so they are more strategic in nature.

This is how they can show that their activities align with strategic goals and that they bring value to the organization.

Communicating effectively and presenting the right information effectively establishes the confidence the C-suite needs to have in order to allow HR to sit at the table. This credibility is needed in order to participate in discussion about the changes in strategy and direction.

CU Mag: How does this play out at your CU?

Gilfedder: At McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union, HR managers are the keepers of the culture. They are charged with providing explicit orientation to our employee population, and they continue to reinforce this through training and other activities during the course of the year.

This process creates opportunities to reward individual success. We recognize that employees often spend more time at work than at home. In our community we recognize individual success through their educational, personal, and professional achievements.

I look at HR as a central repository to assist individuals, but also as a talent development system. We empower our HR team through orientation and training, and by placing the important responsibility of having HR act as the keepers of our organization’s mission, vision, and values.

We place important responsibilities in the hands of our HR leadership, and this strengthens their ability to play a key role in the strategic direction of our organization.

CU Mag: How should CUs use HR to improve corporate management and strategic planning?

Gilfedder: There is tremendous momentum today for credit unions to better use the skills and talents of HR professionals. For HR leaders this is also an opportunity to elevate themselves.

They must go beyond simply providing the data and analytics and help senior leadership interpret this vital organizational information. Anybody can read a report, but if HR is sitting at the table from a strategy perspective, it is their intellect and skill that must be presented.

The ability of HR executives to interpret information will assist senior leaders with making good decisions to support the mission, vision, and values of an organization. This is where HR leaders have a unique perspective because they have a window into everyone’s world within an organization.

In the credit union space, leaders must consider the value that HR can bring to the table. Leadership development and succession planning play vital roles in the long-term success and growth of organizations.

The workplace environment and the role of HR executive are evolving. To succeed, all organizations must look beyond considering employees as a commodity but instead look at them as valuable assets.

With extensive data and a keen understanding of organizational objectives as well as talent, HR leaders are well-positioned to take on greater responsibility today and in the future.

Many in executive leadership have not given HR leaders the respect they deserve. A seat at the executive decision-making table is available, but only for those HR executives who use their knowledge and talents to bring value and prove that they are worthy.