Keep out of the boardroom! Why are HR still on the outside looking in?

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.”


It seems that for too long HR leaders have been denied a seat in the majority of boardrooms. In light of the current time of uncertainty (Brexit anyone?) don’t we think it is time to bring the human back as a business priority and allow people skills to take centre stage again?

For those of us in HR, we already know that no matter what a company produces, the service it provides or even the brands the organisation represents, at the heart of it is its people.

This alone is a great reason to have HR represented in the boardroom, but yet it still seems that business leaders fail to see the value that HR brings which is why HR are still on the outside looking in.

Even as the world of work continues to evolve, the focus appears to have shifted from people to automation, it is easy to think that this doesn’t matter, but as we have seen many times, the companies that have failed, suffered reputational damage and financial loss, because they were not paying attention to the human element of their operation.

So how can HR get their seat at the table? Here are some reasons why they should:

They can highlight the risks that leaders can’t see

As an HR Consultant, it’s not unusual to speak with Directors who want results quickly, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and it can be a positive for the business but if in those decisions the human element is overlooked which can increase risks to the business such as tribunal claims.

This can occur during those famous cost cutting exercises which could involve changing terms and conditions or even a restructure which could result in missing vital details due to rushing process when actioning what seem like good ideas at the time without clearly thinking about the impact those actions have upon their employees. When I am speaking with clients, I always ask them for their business case for the decision surrounding the situation so the best option can identified. By working closely with HR from the beginning, you can ensure that changes within the business aren’t going to have a much more costly impact.

HR can help engage employees

This may seem obvious, but communication at all levels is vital, yet so many organisations forget this, if they fail to engage employees, this can lead to mistakes, miscommunication and potentially a breakdown in trust.

By having the employees join you for the journey makes life as a business leader much easier, there are likely to be less challenges and most importantly, everyone knows the part they have to play to achieve objectives.

It is likely that HR will have access to essential data on it’s people, this could be your star performers, under performers and those I like to refer to as Steady Eddie’s, those who sit in the middle are not to be overlooked. By undertaking this simple due diligence, this can assist the board decisions when it comes to major projects, it quickly identifies where the hurdles are and what resources they are likely to need, as well as managing the expectations of the board when decisions are made, there is no use in running before you can walk which is sadly where many businesses fall short when it comes to major changes.

HR could learn a lot from the board

It’s easy to think “oh poor HR stuck on the outside” this post really isn’t about that; like a contract of employment, relationships within businesses work both ways. Like the board can learn a lot from HR, it is also not a secret that HR could learn a lot from the leaders of the business too.

HR professionals need to look at their own development areas and practice what they preach; one I learnt very early on was to ensure I had strong commerical awareness and truly learn the business overall, but also the customers needs, the supply chain, the capability of managers, learn everything! By showing that understanding, HR can demonstrate their value to the business and that they are not just there to help hire, fire or keep the employee handbook up to date; they know their value and the impact that has on the bottom line.

Why do you think HR are still left out of the boardroom? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below

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