Credibility is the foundation of an HRs professional relationship with the organisation and its leadership – it is the quality of being believable and trustworthy. Credibility is more about the qualities of the individual rather than their role, position or how much formal power they have. It is contextual and takes a lot to gain and no time to lose!
HR is in the ‘relationship game’ in that it’s power and influence is directly linked to the strength of our relationships within the organisational corridors of power and in large part this is determined by the level of credibility HR leaders and managers have with their business leaders.
So how credible is HR amongst business leaders?
Unfortunately, HR’s not impressing many leaders – choose any recent business leader survey (e.g. DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2018, KPMG’s 2016 survey Rethinking HR in a Changing World) and the repeated message is that “no one takes HR seriously enough”: We’re not strategic enough, we are unable to competently use analytics to forecast the company’s employment needs etc.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. The magic formula is for HR to recognise that credibility is the flip side to capability and that we need to be equally strong in both areas. If HR only focuses on one side, we will either not have the opportunity to deliver (lack of credibility) or we can’t deliver (poor capability).
So, assuming HR is capable enough why is HR’s credibility so poor?
The simple answer is that too often HR doesn’t recognise that credibility is so important in order to ‘get things done’ and that it is based on the perception of the recipient, rather than how good we think we are (there are some HR Functions which have rebranded to ‘People Excellence’ –who decides we’re ‘excellent’?). HR instead often relies on its contractual or legalistic knowledge to retain its position in the organisation, not acknowledging that many of its objectives can only be accomplished through the tacit or explicit agreement of managers and employees. Support for HR from within the business tends to occur when either HR can be trusted or we’ve got specialist knowledge and / or previous experience which no one else has.
So how can HR become more credible in order to become true strategic business partners?
9 key strategies to increase credibility:
- Keep promises and commitments (under promise and over deliver);
- Know your audience and relate what you do to their world (and know their limits!);
- Build a reputation for success (blow your own trumpet and use internal comms to promote your business successes);
- Associate with credible business leaders by obtaining visible senior management commitment to agreed HR deliverables;
- Be personally consistent (know what you stand for and what you will not do); 6. Know where you add value (We need to constantly update our skills and mindsets e.g. data analytics);
- Use appropriate business language and stay clear of HR jargon;
- Be a courageous catalyst for change – provide solutions to resolve or cope with uncertainty;
- Be as honest as you can
Building credibility is essentially about constant two-way communication – telling people what you do in a way they can relate to, listening to their needs, delivering against your commitments and not hiding your successes.
Credibility is hard to win and easy to lose so HR has to keep working at and recognising that credibility is not a random output of our actions but a systematic process.
So, what credibility strategies are you going to start today to build your business credibility?
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