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How HR can claim its “seat at the table”


One of the biggest challenges we hear from HR teams is having a “seat at the table” – specifically, being able to influence management teams to invest in HR initiatives and employees in general. We have compiled a few tactical tips and tricks that HR teams can use to get their next HR initiative approved.

1) HR leaders have to know their data

At the most basic level, you must be prepared with statistics and data that (i) show that you have done your homework and (ii) your sources and recommendations that follow are reliable. People are complicated and so is people-data. But it doesn’t mean we can’t put any reasonable assumptions around it and analyze it. Make sure you really do your diligence – there is nothing worse than not knowing your own numbers.

For example, if you are talking about performance management initiatives, you could think about the following to start:

– % of performance reviews done on time

– Number of check-ins completed per manager/team per year

– Number of hours spent per review

– Satisfaction scores with current performance management practices

Employee turnover (bonus points if you can provide turnover stats by department that have different practices)

– Employee productivity (e.g., revenue per employee, profit per employee, etc.)

Remember that data doesn’t have to be always quantitative. For example, stakeholder interviews can give you a lot of interesting data/insights that you can use!

2) HR leaders need to generate meaningful insights from the data

Now that you have all of relevant data in front of you. Think about what the data is telling you:

– What are the biggest pain points?

– What are the biggest areas of development?

– How big is this pain (in $ or time)?

– Where can you realize the quickest value?

Once you have decided on which issues you want to tackle first, it’s time to do the research:

– What are your possible alternatives to solve these issues?

– How much will they cost?

– How much impact will they have and by when?

– Who will have to get involved?

Lay all of these out using primary and secondary research. Don’t be afraid to make logical, research-based assumptions – it’s impossible to know everything 100%. For example, take a look at how we thought about analyzing cost of turnover here. Turn your data into insights, and insights into impact for your business. Make sure to focus on financial terms that management cares about – growth, ROI, and payback are good places to start. If some of these terms are new to you, take a look at this site for a simple explanation. Side note: you can also look at ROI as an annual figure (i.e., how much benefit are you getting annually vs. the one-time investment).

Pro tip: if you have a lot of resistance from management, try to pick smaller issues that have very quick time to value (“low-hanging fruits”) – it will be easier to get buy-in and it will help build your credibility.

3) Presentation

You have your data, insights, and impact all figured out. You are feeling like a wizard at this point. Anyone can ask you any question, and you can answer to the second decimal point. Awesome!

Now, you need to package your data, insights, and impact into a well-thought out presentation/document/report that can communicate your message clearly to the management team. Delivery of your content matters. A lot. I cannot emphasize this enough – no matter how good your message is, if nobody understands it, it’s worthless. Do not skip out on this. Spend some real time figuring out how to message your findings so that the audience can relate to them, feel your pain, and ultimately buy into your initiative.

4) HR leaders need to find sponsors

Go find two to three business unit heads, managers, and employees who are either part of the management team or have strong ties to management to get involved. They should really be involved from step 1 above – their feedback is invaluable. Ideally, they check off the following:

– They have felt the pain you are trying to solve

– They are part of the management team or have close ties to them

– They have the capacity and willingness to take on this initiative with you

Take them out for coffee/lunch. Brainstorm with them. Solicit their feedback. Ask them for introductions. Build relationships with them. The more sponsors you have, the better. This step will take time – be patient – it will pay off.

Hopefully these steps are helpful. Let me know if you think we missed anything critical. Good luck in your next initiative – let’s do this!

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