How Public Sector HR Professionals Can Get Management to Listen

Careers in Government recently posted 3 new articles from Management Education Group, Inc. on their website in and in their monthly newsletter. You can read the first article,  How Public Sector HR Professionals Can Get Management to Listen, below and on their website. They also featured 3 Strategies to Engage Employees and Five Ways a Public Sector HR Department Can Earn Respect.

For years the human resources (HR) professional has been talking about becoming a strategic partner with management. HR professionals say they want to ‘have a seat at the table,’ ‘to be a strategic business partner,’ and ‘to add value’ to the organization. Yet, many of the top government officials that I work with don’t see HR as their first stop in making organizational change. I also hear HR professionals lamenting the fact that management doesn’t include them.

Of course, the transition to a consultative position within the organization takes time. If public sector HR professionals can remember a few key ideas, they’ll be able to make the transition more quickly and confidently. When HR professionals have an opportunity to work with top management, the HR professional should:

Listen to their hot buttons.   If HR is always thinking about HR, they are missing the boat. Try tuning into the key issues that the top brass face. What are they most worried about?   What is their biggest challenge?   What are they complaining about? HR will only be effective if they deliver services that meet the critical needs of the organization’s leaders. You can only do that if you pay attention to their hot buttons.Present your ideas in value-added terms.  Often, HR presents new ideas and solutions that reflect what HR or the employees want. The next time you offer up a new idea, ask yourself, ‘how will this make the agency better?’   If the HR solution does not add value and contribute to the organization’s strategic goals, rework it.Talk their language.   If you don’t know the lingo of your industry, you’re doomed. Remember, you might be an HR professional, but you don’t work in the HR industry. You work in the public sector. If you aren’t aware of what’s going on with your City Council, Board of Commissioners, or other governing body, top management has no reason to listen to you.

See yourself as a peer to management. If you see yourself as a lower level employee, others will see you that way too. Even though you may be geographically south on the organization chart, you cannot think less of yourself and expect managers to see your contribution as valuable.

Say it like it is.   Part of being a peer to management means being frank and honest with your feedback. This is not about alienating others. However, respect is built by telling it like it is. There are too many HR professionals who spend their time protecting their job by avoiding being honest about what they know is really going on.

Continually learn.   Those who are most respected are those who continually hone their craft. We all know colleagues who are doing their job using the same strategies year after year, decade after decade. Eventually, they have nothing new to offer to the organization; yet, management’s challenges change daily. If we are not continually growing, the agency won’t either.

HR professionals are most valuable when they can forge strong partnerships with top management in order to affect the organization’s strategic direction. Everyone wants a seat at the table. However, you won’t even get to the highchair if you don’t improve your core relationships with those you serve.

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