HR: A Trusted Management Advisor

 -  5/25/09

While it’s easy to get caught up in daily task execution during this time, talent managers would do well to focus on the most critical role they can play right now: being a trusted partner and counselor to senior management.

Corporations are leaving no stone unturned as they try to reduce expenses and eliminate all but the most essential activities. While it’s easy to get caught up in daily task execution during this time, talent managers would do well to focus on the most critical role they can play right now: being a trusted partner and counselor to senior management.

In fact, HR is in an ideal position to step up and assume this role. But how is this relationship built? How do talent managers go beyond their HR expert label and become a necessary and critical asset top management uses to shape the organization?

Become an agenda setter. Every executive has an agenda of his or her critical priorities or goals, and it is the talent manager’s job to fully understand them. This might sound simpler than it is, however. For example, a senior executive may not want to spend the time to share long range plans with HR. Further, an agenda typically comprises a business and a personal component. For example, a business goal may be to grow revenues in the Asia-Pacific region, whereas a personal agenda item might be to get promoted or perhaps retire in two years and leave a legacy. Talent managers must keep track of both sides and be instrumental in helping improve and shape the agenda as a whole. Why? When you only react to an executive’s strategy, you are an interchangeable staff expert. When you are an agenda setter, you become a counselor and trusted partner.

Evolve to become a deep generalist. America has become a nation of specialists, and we revere the expert. It’s no surprise then, that some HR professionals spend their entire careers digging deeper into their core specialties. If you want to manage your department or area effectively and also be a trusted advisor to top management, you need depth and breadth — you must become a deep generalist.

To do so, fight hard to get broad exposure early in your career. Invest time to become intimately familiar with your company’s strategy and operations. Read general business publications, not just HR magazines. And get out of the office to spend ample time in the field. I know one HR leader who requires his staff to be out of the office in the trenches at least 50 percent of the time.



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