Top Teaming: HR as the “Consigliere” of the Organization

One of the things we hear in our work with management and operations teams across the globe, are their views of the Human Resources function and how HR could be even most valuable to them. What is surprising is that on many occasions, their experience of HR is not congruent with what they want from HR nor in line with how HR wants to be perceived.

Let’s look at some of the recent comments we heard and propose an idea:

On the negative side:
– HR is often seen as the “policy police” whose processes are often experienced as slow, inflexible, and cumbersome.
– They are viewed as a necessary, but not always valued function.
– They are seen as harbingers of the negative. (“When they show up, something bad is going to happen”)

Human Resources has a “Branding Problem.” Frequently our HR friends talk about having a “seat at the table” and being “trusted business partners.” But all too often, they don’t do the requisite work in the right way to earn the very thing both they, and their business partners both want.

So let me propose an HR Brand, and a set of actions to allow HR to be viewed as even more effective and welcomed.

“HR as Consigliere of the Organization.”

If we move the Godfather references aside, the word “consigliere” means being a trusted advisor or counselor — someone who understands the needs, the business challenges, and the people issues of management and of “the business.” This takes work and a particular approach that requires:

1.  First seeking to understand what the business is trying to accomplish – its priorities, challenges, and resource needs.
2.  Being seen as a business leader first, and an HR functional leader second.
3.  Really showing up to play – asking lots of questions and being a Business Partner who can “help me talk, understand, and make decisions in favor of the business.”
4.  Demonstrating a “Proactive Hunger” about finding out what people need.

One business unit leader who I recently interviewed said the following: “They should be beating down my door to say: ‘Tell me your agenda so I can think about this and prepare what to do.’”

While Human Resources professionals have a complex, often thankless, but necessary job to do, they must be in control about how they are experienced and the strength and value of the relationships they build.

Think about the HR “Brand” in your job, with your team, and with your key customers. Go interview them and ask how you can be even more effective and valuable to them. What do they most need and want?

Be a true Consigliere to your business. You’ll always have a seat at the table.


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