HR Strategy | By Sonus Benefits,

Is Your HR Team Sitting at the Kids Table?

Way too many HR professionals aren’t being allowed to live up to their full potential. Are you one of them?

Maybe you have valuable insight about how the employee benefits plan is working. Or ideas about how to streamline the recruitment and hiring processes. It’s possible you even have strategies for how to improve employee engagement, retention, and company culture.

But at the end of the day, your contributions aren’t being heard. And as long as your HR department is perceived as a paperwork pusher and/or rule enforcer, and not a strategic business partner, you’ll be forever stuck at the kids’ table.

So just how DO you earn a seat in the boardroom?

The View from the C-Suite

HR departments are responsible for hiring, firing, compensation, payroll, onboarding, benefits administration, enforcing company policy, etc. For the most part, the C-suite just wants to know that these activities are occurring smoothly and efficiently. Therefore, many HR departments focus on improving their processes and engaging with people.

But sometimes leadership has a different view of things. Your CFO is focused on the balance sheet and the profits statements, your CEO is concerned with the strategic direction of the company, and your high level managers can be preoccupied with their own divisions and teams.

Leaders spend their days addressing issues around profitability, ROI, productivity, and market share. As a result, they may not be as focused on people and processes as they are on results and strategy.

In other words, if you want to be heard, you need to speak the right language.

Is Your HR Team Fluent in CFO?

Here’s a quick, and familiar example we’ve seen when working with our clients:

The head of HR for a medium-sized business wants to switch employee benefits providers. He has a recommendation for who he wants to go with and why. He makes this suggestion on multiple occasions to the CFO, but she drags her feet. Finally, she tells him that she’s crunched some numbers and it’s not feasible to switch at this time. Nothing happens.

Another year goes by. HR becomes increasingly frustrated and the CFO is leaving valuable business insight on the table.

Now let’s pretend that the head of HR “speaks fluent CFO.” In preparation for his employee benefits plan recommendation, he will do the following:

  1. Consult with a first rate benefits advisor. A good broker or advisor can help tailor a solution well-suited to your company and help you build the case for change. In this example, the head of HR knows the broker has helped draft several recommendations in the past, so he trusts this person to guide the process.
  2. Calculate costs. Realizing the CFO will want to calculate ROI, compare the cost of current plan with the proposed plan. The difference, plus any costs for switching over, is the added investment in change. A great benefits consultant can help with this also.
  3. Estimate savings. Look for gains that will happen when the changeover occurs. For example, perhaps plan administration costs will decrease. Or maybe the benefits will be more lucrative to current and future employees, facilitating talent acquisition and decreasing turnover.
  4. Explain the numbers in the context of the company vision. Numbers alone don’t always tell the whole story. Demonstrate how the proposed changes help fulfill long-term, strategic goals for the company. For example, becoming an industry leader (long-term goal) requires a top team of talent (intermediate step). Explain how the change will help fulfill the company vision by attracting and retaining much-needed talent.
  5. Review responsibilities. To meet the company’s responsibilities as a plan sponsor, HR needs to have a good understanding of compliance issues such as COBRA, HIPAA, and ERISA. Make sure you have all of these bases covered. You’ll also want to have a well-thought-out strategy for how you will roll out, administer, and communicate the new plan. Provide timelines, tasks, and responsible parties or departments. This will help ease any fears about the transition process.
  6. Put it all in writing. Even if you’re providing all of the details up close and in person, chances are your leadership team will want something they can sit down with and review. All key statistics and research, including numbers needed for an ROI analysis, should be included.

Once all of these steps have been completed, it will be easier to make a solid case for change.

You don’t have to do it alone

HR teams don’t typically have an abundance of idle time, and research and preparation can be a tall order— especially for a department that is already stretched thin.

Finding the relevant numbers and reviewing fiduciary responsibility alone can suck up a lot of time if these are tasks you don’t do regularly. This makes step one critically important. Consult with a trusted benefits advisor. Their experience in such matters can be an invaluable timesaver when making the case for change.

If your insurance agent isn’t giving you what you need, do yourself a favor and find a benefits consultant who will.

At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health. Located in Kirkwood, MO, we help clients throughout the greater St. Louis area identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges. From tailored benefit programs to human resource management services, we’ve got you covered.

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