September 13, 2017 in My thoughts

HR – a seat on the board (Alliance MBS & CIPD Manchester: HR Issues Forum)

This was a really interesting forum (including a panel discussion) under the Chatham House rule. Here’s the key points I noted:


If you work in HR, it might be relatively easy to get a seat at the table but…. the real challenge is making a contribution to keeping that seat once you’ve got it.


Only 10-30% of strategy ever gets implemented as intended. Strategy often doesn’t deliver as the organisational culture tends to maintain the status quo. In order to drive change, we need to change organisational culture and this is where HR can provide significant value and can play a great role with boards.


Framework for HR to add value – TIDES
  • Technology
  • Institutions
  • Demographics
  • Environment and ethics
  • Societal values


HR shouldn’t be obsessed with getting ‘a seat at the table’, but it is important that somebody on the board can bring the people focus to board discussions. We have a PR problem in HR and it is important that we build credibility. However, when HR people do reach Director level, you will find that your value as a Director is much broader and you will be valued for behaviours that aren’t necessarily very ‘HR’ behaviours (such as risk-taking , bravery, curiosity, not being constrained by current ways of doing things).


There are lots of things you need to do at board level; know what you need to do to deliver business success, have a clear plan for how you’re going to deliver busiensss results, build relationships and trust with the senior team, hold the line to account for delivering on their people responsibilities, and continue to earn your position on the board.


Resilience, credibility, and confidence are really important to be a HR professional operating at board level, and it can be really powerful to do secondments and gain experience in other (non-HR) functions.


HR can damage their own credibility when they implement constant re-organisations as a response to challenges:
  • There is a real danger if HR are always seen to be the face of organisational change (the messenger)
  • HR need to be bold and challenging, not just doing whatever is asked
  • The can be a really important for role for HR to be the organisational conscience and to ask the questions that nobody else wants to ask e.g. “why are we doing this?”. HR can really help when the business is being a bit tunnel-focus in pursuing a solution that isn’t the best course of action
  • Be nosy, find things out, and make sure you can take other perspectives (e.g. customers, service users, front-line workers etc.)


CIPD could do more by making the HR curriculum more commercial, and bringing in the practical elements. Would like to see links with CIMA, CIM, etc. so that there is more of a MBA-style variety of skills to supplement the core HR stuff.
 Here is Rachel Burnham’s SketchNote of the session:



1 (Rachel Burnham

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