In 2021, we launched our HR at the Table series to connect with HR and TA professionals from some of the nation’s most notable companies to discuss their roles at the executive table. Our latest episode featured MS International’s (MSI) VP of Human Resources, Chris Courneen. Chris shared how aligning with his executive team empowers him as a decision-maker to impact the company’s success, including the bottom line. With insight from Chris, we’ve got his three tips to achieve executive alignment broken down for you.
Before aligning with business goals, you have to understand the business itself. Upon joining MSI, Chris was encouraged to refrain from suggesting any changes to MSI for his first six months. Instead, he was encouraged to work hands-on in various departments to understand their goals and responsibilities.
At MSI, the executive team wanted Chris to understand their business model and how they operated before he started challenging decisions or making significant changes.
Chris pointed out that to make suggestions to an executive team, HR professionals and TA leaders need to provide context behind their reasoning. To do so, leaders must invest time and energy into understanding the unique challenges and threats their business faces.
After understanding the business itself, Chris aligned his role in HR to supporting and upholding the company’s core values.
“The key for an HR leader is not only to figure out the culture of the company but the culture and philosophy of its leaders,” Chris said. “If this isn’t done, it is difficult to challenge decisions.”
In turn, this provided him a holistic approach to communicating with and guiding business leaders company-wide.
According to Chris, HR’s role is to “help business leaders leverage the single most valuable resource there is, people.” However, with redundant and inundated processes, HR is often bogged down, minimizing time to focus on the heart of the company.
Consequently, HR departments are often deemed as “necessary evils” or “cost centers” to executive leadership teams and companies today. However, this label is significantly changing with the help of HR technology.
HR technology enables HR leaders to focus on work that matters instead of old-school processes—completing administration work that an automated system could have done wastes company time and resources.
Instead, Chris shared, “HR and HR technology should be evolving at the rate of the business's technology. Maybe even some cases ahead of the business's technology."
When it comes to HR tech, the important thing is to choose and invest in the right technology, so HR can focus on its core: the people.
“A company can’t be long-term profitable without caring for their people,” Chris emphasized. To protect your employees, you have to protect the business, and to protect the business, you have to protect your employees. Therefore, people and profits go hand in hand.
HR technology is useful but can be useless to an executive team if its value can’t be effectively communicated. To communicate with executive teams, you have to speak their language—ROI. So, as Chris shared, break it down to dollars and cents.
"Spend the time to quantify the benefit that you [HR] bring or the outcome of your work and break it all the way down to dollars,” shared Chris.
While calculating ROI can seem unnatural for HR initiatives, doing so can drastically impact how your executive leadership team views the work you do. If you’re not sure where to start, start with your HR tech stack.
According to Aptitude Research
Yet, only one in two companies measure how these HR technology solutions impact their ROI, leaving executive leaders unsure of the robustness of HR’s value (Aptitude Research). By understanding how HR technology affects ROI, you have the power to speak to the executive team in a way HR hasn’t traditionally.
Note: Calculating ROI goes further than HR tech, though. It includes calculating:
To wrap up, the best way for HR to reach executive alignment is through three steps:
Once you have a seat at the table, use these steps to maintain your seat and align with your executive team. For more information on executive alignment, watch our HR at the Table episode with Chris Courneen on-demand.