#2 Ask Me Anything: Where are the influential HR leaders?

influenceAnkita, i have seen companies where the Human resource head or department is not very influential. May be they do not get buy in from the top management for certain HR interventions (which involves cost/time) required for the business. This may be due to lack of data analytics as the intervention is done for the first time. What is your say on this?

I have usually seen influence as the outcome of either power or trust. Some organizations are designed in a way that grant a fair bit of power to the HR function but those are few and far in between. In most cases, influence is an outcome of having earned trust, and the only way to earn trust is to demonstrate success over time combined with a thorough understanding of the business landscape. Often, businesses struggle to see how a certain ask (money, time etc.) benefits them and data alone may not be convincing. HR Leaders do need to play to faith too. Thus, the best way to get buy-in is to have built unshakable trust that makes it difficult to say ‘No’.  When not done right, they run into the situation you quoted.

The HR leader/department needs to figure how they can get to a stage where the business is willing to take a chance on them. If you are successful in getting to this stage, the numbers do not matter. As much as we would like to say that data runs the world, no matter how great the mathematical modelling, if the business does not want to invest in it, they will not. It is additionally hard in HR since are data models come built with a million assumptions, all of them questionable. Therefore, while I would lean on data, I would lean harder into building trust.

There are usually 2-3 ways one can go about it.

  1. Pick the easy ones: There are always some people who are easier to convince than the others are. It could be because they are more open to experiments, have more budget than some other teams or just get along better with you. Whatever the reason, identify them and make them your ally. If you can deliver successfully for them, it helps get future buy-in with other leaders as now you have evidence to help influence decisions. For large experiments/investments, it anyway helps to have proof of concepts, followed by pilots so this should help.
  1. Focus on quick wins: This one is age-old advice. One can argue that it takes years to build trust; things move quickly, HR cannot afford the long curve of building trust and then following up with change. I would debate that on the lines of long-term thinking, but for now, let’s consider that argument as true. In that case, the best thing is to first grab the low-hanging fruit and then make your way up the tree. Deliver on some quick wins that have high impact. Do not start by attempting to build a predictive attrition model which is questionable at best, instead try your hand at building an effective recognition mechanism (I’m using examples so don’t hold me to it).  With enough quick wins in your basket, you will be surprised how easy it is to make bigger ones.
  1. Make them believable: Asks get granted if the business has a vested interest in it. I hope the solution that is presented is; however, even if it isn’t, it is important to make it appear it is. Many times, you might just need a lot of money to build a new HRIS and not know if it will actually help. The business may not be interested and thus, politely ask you to continue with your crappy system. Thus, speak their language. Have a good reason as to why it will make their life better, not just yours. Sell a dream. Make it believable; so palpable that it seems silly to say no. Learn from sales and you will be surprised.

There are of course endless tricks you can pick up from behavioral psychology but these are just some that work for me. I am curious. Do you agree?

P.S: Have questions you’d like to ask? Send them over as comments to this post, on Twitter (@ankitapoddar) or LinkedId.

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