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HR: Have a Voice and You Will Be Heard

August 22, 2011

This morning at the ILSHRM11 conference I attended a session with Michael Hahn called “Beyond Compliance: The Consultative Approach to HR.”  With his varied business background, including time as a Financial Analyst, Michael provided a view of HR as seen by others and gave some pointers (and yes, re-assurances) as he talked us through serving in a Consultative Role.

Unfortunately, in his work with CEOs and other C-Level executives, Michael has heard many of these Leaders state that HR professionals do not understand that profitability is their primary objective.


It’s the bane of our HR existence isn’t it my fellow HR peeps?  It’s so easy to latch on to FMLA updates and the ‘new’ ADAAA and stuff coming out of the OFCCP that we go into auto-drive and churn along in “compliance mode.”  And we pat ourselves on our collective back for being smart about all that stuff.  Yes, I know – and of course it’s important. We have to execute the basics – flawlessly.  But re-read that profitability line – “HR professionals do not understand that profitability is their primary objective.”

So how does an HR professional transition from compliance-based to consultative-based?  How can one begin that journey?  Michael pointed out that this can be accomplished by following these three steps:

1)  Get HR aligned with the Organizational Goals

2)  Internally consult on Projects

3)  Become a Trusted Advisor


Prior to the conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Michael via telephone.  I asked him to describe some of the characteristics of a successful internal HR Consultant and describe some of the things that HR pros should be doing.  He shared the following:

  • HR needs to evaluate itself and its effectiveness in terms of efficiency & service to the rest of the organization. 
  • HR needs to define the value added activities they perform and MUST be able to communicate that value in the language of the C-Suite – ROI & Profitability. 
  • HR Leaders need to bring forth potential problems and potential solutions, especially contributing this insight during times of strategic planning or when the organization is shifting goals/objectives.  This is what CEOs want.

Michael let us know that it’s easy to begin this journey – this transition from compliance to consultative can begin by:

  • Interviewing and observing within our organizations 
  • Finding out what projects and initiatives will be driving growth and which ones are absolutely essential to success for our organizations. 
  • Being a Talent Pro – Step 1 is simply to ask our Leaders and Business Partners “What skills are essential to success on this project/team/for the future?”

Now there’s one idea Michael champions that I don’t agree with.  He suggests that HR professionals use the term “Pilot Program” for any new ideas they would like to implement as it allows some flexibility in the results and will provide a safer feeling to any teams/Leaders/staff with whom they’re partnering.

To which I say “blech.”  Wimpy.  Does the CFO trot out a pilot program? Or the CMO?  No, they come outta the gate with a bit more guts, not with tentative pilot programs. Their business programs are focused on results and evaluation and outcomes; they believe in them and state that at the front end..  And we need to do the same with our programs.  (Sorry Michael).


Performing personnel file audits and enforcing Fed/State mandatory poster displays is surely not exciting or sexy, but we all know those sorts of things are necessary.  But we cannot lose sight of the fact that it’s so much more necessary to be an effective internal HR Consultant.

So next time you perform that I-9 Audit, do a self-check to determine if the activities you’re performing are focused on the right thing. 

And if you aren’t sure…you damn well better find out.

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