I remember when I first entered the workforce, back when I was 15-years-old. I was on the fryers at my local fast food shop selling burgers and chicken nuggets.
I knew then that I did not want to do this forever and my trainer at the time, who himself was only 17-years-old, said to me: “Decide the job you want and do it”. At first I didn’t realise he meant right then and right now.
That’s how it all started. I entered the management world at 16 years old and never looked back. Now in my early 40s, as vice president of people and organisation development at Dorchester Collection, my thought process hasn’t really changed. I always wanted to have that ‘seat at the table’ and urge others to think the same way.
But what does it actually mean to have a 'seat at the table'?
In my opinion, it is about being the conscience of the organisation and ensuring not only your voice, but everyone else's is heard. We all desire to have a culture in our companies where everyone is working towards a common goal, engagement levels are high, turnover and absenteeism is low and, of course, revenues and profits are strong.
It seems in recent months, I have read article after article and seen paper after paper about how HR is changing and how we have to have a seat at the table. Well shame on us if we don’t already have it.
In every organisation there is a foundation. This foundation if made up of people, guests (or customers) and owners or in simpler terms; finance, sales and HR. So it’s not about having a seat at the table – we already make up that seat.
In fact, the organisation couldn’t reach the culture we desire without us. If we really want to help ourselves, then we all need to understand this now and not go about trying to convince others that we should have that voice, that presence, that state of mind.
We only hurt our profession by doing and saying this. The fundamental basis of our role is to promote the people in our organisation and create engaging work environments for them to succeed.
We would not be in our roles if we could not analyse turnover, absenteeism, reward programmes, benefits and payroll. Being a founding member of the business, it goes without saying that we need to fully understand our business and all of the operations within it. Connectivity to the production floor (whatever that may look like) gives us the knowledge when we speak on behalf of the employees and the culture we are creating.
I have worked in five different companies in 10 countries and met endless HR directors over the past 20 years. The ones who know they have that seat are confident and do their roles with a determination to be on the same level as their finance and sales counterparts.
Those who don't feel they have that voice often give endless excuses as to why they couldn’t achieve the culture they wanted. I say to all HRDs, don’t question it anymore and simply know – the seat is already yours. Make it count.