HR leaders make up a surprisingly tiny percentage of all boards. With talent, culture, and compensation issues dominating attention, this needs to change.
“Our people are our greatest asset” – while something of a cliché, it is true that the rise and fall of any organisation is largely determined by people making the right decisions and delivering on them successfully.
It is critical that boards have the ability and appetite to understand and engage with the many complex people challenges faced by organisations.
Boards of directors are now including topics like compensation, hybrid working, diversity and inclusion, and organisational culture in their dialogue on leadership. Human capital topics are central as they are critical to success. Yet, many boards do not have a sitting HR leader as a member, with as little as three per cent of board members having experience in a HR role.
In the wake of the pandemic, seismic changes in the labour market have shifted attention to talent. Corporate leaders now look to HR executives for talent-related issues. Among them will be how to create sustainable remote and hybrid schedules, wellbeing interventions, and redesign offices so that workers want to come back.
In the past, board agendas focused on strategic direction, succession planning, and executive compensation. However, in today’s interconnected world, economic and cultural events significantly impact businesses, and boards are focusing more on issues around talent and culture, but most boards don’t have directors with expertise in either.
In the recent past, boards have been made up of executives who have been successful in running their own businesses, accountants, lawyers, and academics, placing finance as a top concern. If boards are discussing culture, values, and talent management, shouldn’t there be an experienced HR leader on the board to guide these discussions?
In an evolving workplace where technology and humans work in tandem, HR has a crucial role to play. Although technology complements human skills, making the workforce more productive, and therefore more valuable, transformative change cannot happen without workforce buy-in. Working directly with stakeholders throughout the organisation, HR leaders are best placed to enable behavioural changes amongst the workforce.
HR leaders can provide a powerful lens at board level on a workforce and can support organisations in lifting their gaze from operational HR matters to a strategy of leveraging culture, leadership, and values – the key metrics shaping organisations today.
The need to have an experienced HR voice on board has never been greater, as workforce dynamics shift, and the perennial need to attract new people gets harder. All boards need a HR voice to speak, guide, and advise on new ways of connecting an organisation with its employees and refresh shared purpose to ensure sustained performance.