Someone once asked what my work-life philosophy was. My answer was and still is: find the best and learn from them. And so when I met Dave Ulrich for the first time while on a programme in Michigan Ross Business School, I asked him what I could do to differentiate myself as an HR professional.
His answer to me was: “Be a business person FIRST and an HR professional SECOND.”
This perception expanding advice has been a game changer for me in my role as a provider of HR Consulting services at Workforce Group – one of the top HR consulting firms in Nigeria. I am confident that heeding this advice will transform your HR Career and propel you to greater heights.
So, what does it mean to be a business person FIRST?
In my work with client organizations, I have encountered HR professionals who have proven so strategic to the business of their organization that if two executives – the Head of HR and the CFO were waiting to see the CEO, the CEO would request to see the HR person first.
HR practitioners know that this is an exception rather than the rule. What then is the secret of this exceptional group of HR professionals? The answer is: these HR leaders have become so functionally knowledgeable of the business that they have proven themselves as proficient solution providers to matters that concern the CEO. And in today’s difficult business environment, what business leader would keep a solution provider waiting? I certainly wouldn’t.
It merits repeating that CEOs today are under enormous pressure. They face financial pressure, customer pressure, shareholder pressure, government pressure, and employee pressure. As a result, the failure rate of a lot of business leaders is quite high. Consequently, they are always in need of committed professionals who lighten the weight of leadership by providing effective business solutions and driving strategy execution.
If you wish to increase your capacity as an HR Professional, then you should know that it is no longer enough to be an HR expert. You must be able to combine business acumen with HR expertise. This means that you have got to understand how your company makes money and align your decisions and activities to impact the company’s financial performance. It means you have to stop playing “housekeeper” and start being a “strategy executioner”. Instead of thinking “HR” first, you must always first think “business”.
All the great Chief Human Resources (CHROs) I know do this. Beyond being excellent personnel & administrative managers, they are ardent students and observers of the business of their companies. They listen, seek understanding, and learn from the best line leaders so as to become effective business persons and subsequently, business partners. This is so important.
This article has been written to provide you with the understanding of what it means and what it requires to be a business person.
Regardless of the size of your organization, becoming a business person will require that you:
- Love the Business
- Know the Business
- Speak the Language of the Business
- Drive the Agenda of the Business