To be a strategic partner at the executive table the HR Executive must know his stuff as an HR Professional, know the business of the organization, join an organization whose senior leadership has a deliberate human resources strategy and, you have the confidence of the CEO. If you want to work in a knowledge based organization where one of the values is human dignity, well, that you have to make a choice.

HR as a profession seems to constantly ask the question: How can we be admitted to the senior management table. This is a not a new question. I have been in the HR profession for, well, decades, and we were bleating about this in the seventies! Hell, we even changed our name from ‘Personnel’ to ‘Human Resources’ thinking this might make us more relevant.

I recently did a presentation to an HR team in a government agency. The theme: HR as Strategic Partner. I gave them my observations from primarily a private sector point of view. My main points are listed below, but let me dispense with the excuses right away. I realize that some of the tasks of HR are somewhat self-limiting: there is administrative work to do, and we have to keep our managers out of jail – but if we are completely rules-bound we’ll never be strategic, or a partner, no matter how much we bleat.


• Know your stuff

– HR Practitioners must be unchallenged experts at HR Practices, technology, transactions, laws, etc.,
– Must deliver HR Services in a timely and reliable manner: integrity –> Trust

• Know the business

What is the organization purpose?

What are its technologies, processes, competitive advantages?

What is the language of business: know how the business is measured:

• Know the Stakeholders’ HR Strategy (It’s not HR’s strategy, it’s the business strategy for utilizing the human resources)

Are the human resources seen as a commodity? or strategic advantage?

Is it about process and costs? Or levering knowledge assets?

Does the Executive team even have an HR Strategy? (Or if they have a strategy, is it real? or just lip service?)

There’s no sense being naïve or misaligned about this.

Key Requirements:

• The CEO’s attitude

Does he or she see human resources as a strategic element in the business enterprise?

Does he or she see H.R. as a Strategic Partner?

• Do you have the confidence of the CEO?

Yes, if you have mastered the pre-requisites.

And yes if you have confidence in yourself?

(And confidence is a self-fulfilling prophesy.)

Are you working for a CEO as strategic partner? What are you doing about it?