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How HR Professionals Can Get Management to Listen
by Marnie Green

The human resources (HR) press and professional associations continue to produce volumes of information about HR becoming a strategic partner. HR professionals are working hard to "have a seat at the table," "to be a strategic business partner," and "to add value" to the organization. Yet, many HR managers still don't seem to have jumped on the bandwagon. And, as a result, HR is still struggling to get management to listen to their advice.

Of course, the transition to a consultative position within the organization will take time. But, if HR professionals remember a few key things, that transition will be made more quickly and confidently.

1. Listen to their hot buttons.

If HR is always thinking about HR, they are missing the boat. Try tuning into the key issues that the top brass face. What are they most worried about? What is their biggest challenge? What are they complaining about? HR will only be effective if they deliver services that meet the critical needs of the organization's leaders. You can only do that if you pay attention to their hot buttons.

2. Present your ideas in value-added terms.

Often, HR presents new ideas and solutions that reflect what HR or the employees want. The next time you offer up a new idea, ask yourself, "how will this make the organization better?" If the HR solution does not add value and contribute to the organization's strategic goals, rework it.

3. Talk their language.

If you don't know the lingo of your industry, you're doomed. Remember, you might be an HR professional, but you don't work in the HR industry. You work in the manufacturing industry, the financial industry, or in the public sector. If you aren't aware of what's going on with your competitors, management has no reason to listen to you.

4. See yourself as a peer to management.

If you see yourself as a lower level employee, they will see you that way too. Even though you may be geographically lower on the organization chart, you cannot think of yourself that way and then expect managers to see your contribution as valuable.

5. Say it like it is.

Part of being a peer to management means being frank and honest with your feedback. This doesn't mean that you should go around alienating everyone. However, respect is built by telling it like it is. Too many HR people spend their time protecting their job by avoiding being honest about what they know is really going on.

6. Continually learn.

Those who are most respected are those who continually hone their craft. We all know colleagues who are doing their job using the same strategies year after year. Eventually, they have nothing new to offer to management; yet, management's challenges change daily. If we are not continually growing, the organization will not either.

HR professionals are most valuable when they can forge strong partnerships with top management in order to affect the organization's strategic direction. We all want a seat at the table. However, we won't even get to the highchair if we don't improve our core relationships with those we serve.

About the Author

Marnie Green, Chandler, AZ, USA

Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Arizona-based Management Education Group, Inc. She is the author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance (Pearson/Prentice Hall). Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop leaders today for the workforce of tomorrow. Contact Green at


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