HR Must Exercise Influence, Francis Says

By Dori Meinert Jun 23, 2014
ORLANDO, FLA.—To meet the challenges of an ever-changing society, HR professionals must step up and use their expertise in human capital to help guide their organizations, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Board Chair Bette J. Francis, SPHR, told the 13,000 attendees at the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition on June 22.

“This is the time to increase our influence in our organizations,” Francis said.

Too often, she said, she hears HR professionals talk about how they are excluded from decision-making. The biggest barrier that HR faces, though, is not the executives or the colleagues who don’t understand the value of HR.

“That barrier is ourselves,” she said.

She recalled excuses she’s heard some HR professionals give when she has asked them what they could do in certain situations to gain influence within their organizations. They responded, “No, you can’t do that” or “That’s a compliance issue.”

HR professionals have long been frustrated for not being given a seat at the table, she said.

“Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about changing the way the world sees us and our profession, and to start transforming ourselves inside the profession,” said Francis, who is vice president of HR at Wilmington Trust in Delaware.

She noted how Andrea Hendricks, senior vice president for diversity and inclusion at UMB Financial Corp., connected with her new colleagues even though she couldn’t join their golf outings.

“Andrea got outside of her comfort zone, and she met with each of the team members one-on-one … building relationships that continue to this day,” Francis said.

Another way HR professionals can increase their influence is to use the tactical parts of the job as a jumping-off point for making suggestions on how to improve the business.

“You can share ideas just as easily as you can process paperwork,” she said. When you show interest in helping your organization achieve, “you’re another step closer to gaining influence.”

SHRM’s HR Competency Model is another tool that can be used to increase an HR professional’s influence, she said.

“We must have a voice in the future of our businesses,” Francis said, “because if we don’t speak for the human capital that powers our organizations, who will?”

Before Francis took the stage, the audience watched a video showing how Greg Burns, vice president of HR for MicroSeismic Inc., an oil field services company based in Houston, recently influenced his company in a big way.

Burns was inspired at last year’s Annual Conference when he listened to Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, speak about his shoe company’s program to donate a pair of shoes to a needy individual for every pair purchased by customers.

Burns immediately phoned Peter Duncan, MicroSeismic founder and co-chair, to pitch a similar idea. The company’s employees monitor sounds of the hydraulic fracturing process underground. To motivate them to monitor more underground wells in less time, the company launched a program to help a hearing-impaired child for every well the company monitors.

So far, MicroSeismic has helped more than 30 children with donations to hospitals that help pay for hearing aids.

“Today, I got to see a 4-year-old child hear her mother’s voice for the first time,” Burns said in the video.

Dori Meinert is a senior writer for​ HR Magazine.


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