Building influence through HR


Jennifer McClure, CEO of DisruptHR and president of Unbridled Talent, has some advice for HR professionals seeking to take on broader business leadership roles.

Having spent 20 years as an HR professional, most recently with a global consumer products manufacturer, Jennifer McClure knows first-hand how difficult it can be to transcend the perceptions of HR and move into the C-suite, with two key challenges common across industries.

“We get a lot of bad press in Human Resources for being transactional and administrative, but I talk to many HR professionals who would love to add more value in their organisations, and they get pushback from their leaders when they try to do that,” McClure says.

“The other challenge is that it is really a new world for HR, and people really are the centre of competitive advantage for the business. Most things technology-wise or product-wise are ubiquitous in today’s environment, or can easily be copied or mimicked. What it comes down to is do you have the people who can come up with new and innovative ideas and deliver on the objectives. That to me puts HR at the forefront, because it is about finding and developing the right people with the right skills and talent.”

McClure shared with Inside SAP three ways HR professionals can start to take a more strategic role in their organisations.

Look at global trends in technology and how they can be applied to improve HR processes.
“Certainly there are a lot of developments in technology that even for people who are doing hourly jobs or manual labour, can make the employee experience better. What can we do to provide better pathways for communication for employees in remote areas? How can we use technology to make learning opportunities more accessible to employees?”, McClure says.

Start training people for the jobs of the future.
“The reality is in the future of work, things are changing so rapidly that the skills we had in the past aren’t necessarily the skills that we need today. We’re not training people for the jobs of the future. Everyone needs to be a lifelong learner – we all have to continue to evolve, we have to continue to develop skills, so the organisations that really double down on making learning accessible and part of their culture are the ones that are going to be able to get ahead.”

Take every opportunity to understand the business.
“HR leaders really do need to know and understand the business, especially if they’re trying to get people to see them differently – not as the administrative, transactional person, but more as the business partner and person involved in helping to set the direction and the future of the company,” McClure says.

“We need to know some basic financial information about where we make money and where we’re seeing challenges. But even more importantly, we need to know what are the challenges and opportunities that are facing our business, and that’s probably going to come from talking to the functional leaders in the organisation.”

Even if you’re not currently at the executive team meetings, HR leaders can still ask those who are about the top three challenges they and their team are facing in delivering on the business objectives – and then work on how HR can help them overcome those barriers.

“Once we start helping those functional leaders solve the problems they face or capture the opportunities, then number one, they’re going to want us to be involved because we’re helping them to be successful. Number two, they’re going to see how HR really is involved in the business and not just constantly harping on them about performance evaluations due and benefits paperwork.

“When you are helping me to solve business problems, I see you as somebody who has a strategic value to the business.”


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