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HR’s reputation as we emerge from Covid

If HR leaders don’t have a strategy for coming out of this stronger, there is a real risk of damage to their credibility and influence.

The word ‘unprecedented’ can be used lightly, but in this case it’s a fair description of the demands faced by HR.

Employment regulations changing daily and requiring immediate action and communication, may have pulled HR even more into the downward cycle of admin that they’ve been fighting for years. Pushing for compassionate measures and consideration for employees’ well-being might have reinforced the ‘caring’ expectation on HR that’s a mixed blessing.

The great test is what people will say about you when you’re not in the room. Will it be ‘HR did a great job getting us through this crisis’? Not a bad obituary, but how much better to hear ‘HR showed great leadership’ or ‘HR proved how pivotal they are to our success’, or even ‘HR are front and centre, strategically as well as operationally.’

Ironically, this pandemic offers HR a once-in-a-career opportunity to drive their credibility and influence.

When you’re in the centre of a storm, it’s tough to see the horizon – it’s difficult enough dealing with one wave at a time. Yet, it’s vital to plan now to ensure that HR emerges as full strategic partners for the long term. Building HR’s reputation requires conscious action.

Self-promotion doesn’t tend to sit well with HR people; a lot of what they do is behind the scenes – creating the conditions for others to do a great job. HR needs a strategy that’s more politically intelligent and sensitive to the need to protect their reputation as a trusted partner and authentic leader. As a HRD coaching client said to me recently ‘they need HR to tell them the truth, and push back.’ The platform for this takes some careful building.

Political intelligence for HR leaders requires a challenging mix: astute business understanding; speaking the right language; locking into strategic debates and decision-making; being at the right table at the right time and then demonstrating credibility both intellectually and behaviourally.

What do you want HR to be known for? This question helps us to work out with our clients the steps that need to be taken to get there. HR can identify and create opportunities to get across the depth of their understanding of the business, with credibility and stature. The skills and confidence required to make the most of those critical moments can be built by coaching and workshops.

The whole HR team depends upon their leader’s reputation to build their own. They thrive within a framework of clear identity and purpose, and eagerly adopt clear messages that can be repeated and reinforced in their interactions with client groups. Your team can align behind a shared strategy for HR’s reputation, and develop their skills in managing stakeholders that build into the relationships you want, conversation by conversation.

Delivering great HR is a complex balancing act involving many different interests, priorities and values. It’s one thing to do a great job, and another to be seen to do a great job. When HR manage their reputation proactively, keeping it at front of mind and building it into their strategy for success, it is a great source of pride as well as achievement.

If you have any further questions about developing and managing HR’s reputation, please contact us.

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