When asked why Indiana isn’t attracting and keeping enough IT top talent, Mike Langellier, CEO of TechPoint, told the audience at a recent public meeting that it’s “because too few organizations have a strategic HR function.” This isn’t a problem unique to Indiana or IT, however; all organizations regardless of geography or industry need to have a strategic HR function. None of us can afford to “burn and churn” our people any more—there aren’t enough individuals with needed skills—so we must all hire, develop, and retain the best. That takes an HR department filled with highly skilled professionals who are consciously aligned with the business strategy.

There’s a lot of talk about transforming “human resources” into “talent management,” a strategic function aligned with the organization’s strategic plan. That transformation cannot be merely the hollow window dressing of new titles and a simple plan. After all, a plan alone won’t earn HR a spot at the table with senior management if it’s not coupled with deadlines, metrics, and consistent actions that quickly deliver needed results.

If you’re an HR professional, how can you become more strategic and more valued by the organization?

  1. Raise your skills. Understand that business will never slow down—it will only speed up. That means each employee in every department must bring more to the table. All of us have to grow our skills on a continual basis. No matter where you are in the HR hierarchy, get certified in HR. Get your PHR, SPHR, CPLP, or other designations. Finish your degree. If you’re certified and have a degree, consider getting an MBA. With or without tuition assistance, take charge of your own development. There’s no time like the present.
  2. No matter your title—whether generalist or specialist—start thinking of yourself as a business person first. You happen to specialize in talent management, and talent management is the key to meeting larger strategic-growth goals. Your decisions and actions have an impact on the future of the organization. Reframe your priorities in order to become more valuable to your organization.
  3. Build your business acumen and vocabulary. Read business publications and industry journals. Take a class. Learn about business in general (how to develop a budget, read a P&L statement, etc.).
  4. Immerse yourself in the business. Learn about your organization specifically. Who and where are your competitors? Where is your industry going and what is your organization’s place in it? Once a week have lunch with a different peer in a different business unit. What are your peers working on? What keeps them up at night? How can talent management assist? Partnering with management at all levels can happen only when management knows that you know the business.
  5. Thoroughly understand your organization’s strategic plan and talent management’s role in achieving growth goals. Until you and each of your peers understand your role in taking the organization into the future, talent management will not have the brand it needs in order to influence individual managers or the executive team.
  6. Become a technology wizard. More of the tactical elements of talent management—payroll, performance management, even the initial stages of talent acquisition—are becoming more automated. Simultaneously, your organization is utilizing project management software, advanced Excel, and more. Take a class. Make technology your friend.

Our organizations need more talent management professionals who can connect the dots, divine future needs, and deliver needed results in a timely manner. There will always be a role for the tactical elements of talent management, but as more departments automate certain functions and as individuals are given broader responsibilities, there will be fewer and fewer positions that are purely tactical. You can become a valued strategic thinker and doer.

Submitted by Bill Mugavin