7 things your CEO won’t tell you about HR, but wishes you knew

Tip #1: Avoid speaking HR-ese. Tip #1: Avoid speaking HR-ese.

You don’t have to dumb down your language, but at least connect with employees and C-suite execs using more plain-speak. For instance, don’t say “value-added,” Segal advises. “We have our own language, but when we’re in the boardroom, we need to tone it down a bit.” Segal also says to avoid using “proactive,” “synergy” and “outside-the-box.” Rather, “just put the box away. We do much better at the table when we use plain speak.”

Tip #2:  Stop asking to be at the table. Tip #2: Stop asking to be at the table.

We all remember the Thanksgiving when we move from the “kids” table to the “adult” table. Segal says that when pros ask to be at the big meeting, they’re implying that their current position is at the kids’ table. Rather than asking, he says, demonstrate why you should be there and ask when the meeting starts. “There are times when you have to make the choice between the discomfort of being excluded or the discomfort of not being wanted, but still going in the room.” He suggests raising the topic by saying, “‘I saw this meeting; it’s a critical issue and I’d like to be there. What time does it begin?’ It’s hard for someone to say no to that.”

Tip #3:  Learn the business of your business. Tip #3: Learn the business of your business.

You went to school for human resources management, not banking. Why should you know banking if you’re not a banker? In every organization — whether banking or any other industry — if you don’t understand the services your company offers, then the advice you give will be seen as generic. What’s right for a population of 20-somethings at a tech firm might not be right for a service-focused workforce dominated by employees over 50. “You need to make sure you understand the details, understand what it means if they’re ‘outside sales’ and who you’re competitors are,” Segal says.

Tip #4:  Link HR goals to corporate goals. Tip #4: Link HR goals to corporate goals.

Finding the right talent isn’t just a problem for you; it’s an issue that reaches all the way to the C-suite. Segal advises demonstrating your understanding of talent management through a formalized mentoring program. gap. He suggests trying to retain people by infusing mentoring programs into meetings and to tell the executives that there is a business case for such a program: retaining top people.

Tip #5:  Recognize top talent. Tip #5: Recognize top talent.

“Recognition and tradition are the vitamins employees need every day,” Segal says, adding that HR/benefits practitioners ignore the importance of rewards and recognition at their own peril. “If someone doesn’t want to be with you, you don’t want to hold them and find yourself with an exodus of individuals at the end of the year. Rather than chaining them, [ask yourself], ‘How can we entice them to be here?’”

Tip #6:  Never say, “But the policy provides …” Tip #6: Never say, “But the policy provides …”

When you use this phrase, you reduce your position to a manual reader, Segal says. He also advises pros to be careful not to lock yourself into doing something that isn’t the best thing or is unrealistic to deliver, such as posting all vacant jobs, investigation timelines or progressive discipline. “There are policies, and then there are procedures,” he notes. “Separate the two. They should be drafted as values and sometimes absolutes like zero tolerance for violence.”

Tip #7:  Don’t inundate C-suite with minutia. Tip #7: Don’t inundate C-suite with minutia.

Senior management most likely doesn’t want to hear the nitty-gritty details of a problem. The response you’ll most likely get is, “Make it go away.” But Segal says, if you offer too little information, “[leaders will say], ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ You can’t win.” The trick is to figure out what your boss absolutely needs to know and what he/she doesn’t. “Too much information is as bad as no information,” he says. He suggests that when faced with a problem, send your boss the issue at hand and a few statements that he/she can respond to with either true or false. “You want to make it so easy that they look at you as low maintenance."

HR/benefits professionals play an important role in an organization, but a common complaint is that when it comes to being involved in C-suite-level decisionmaking, they’re commonly left out of the mix. According to Jonathan A. Segal, partner and managing principal at Duane Morris LLP, sometimes pros shouldn’t be asking to be at the table, but instead asking when the table is meeting and showing up. Segal offers a few tips that he says CEOs don’t tell HR/benefits pros, but wishes they knew nonetheless. These seven strategies might help smooth communication and strengthen partnerships between you and executives.

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