"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
-Margaret Mead

Becoming a strategic partner to a company is an exciting challenge for any human resource executive. The suggestions set forth below come from CEO's, employment law attorneys, consultants, Chief Relationship Officer Forum members (www.croforum.com) and other human resource professionals. May they prove to be of great value in setting your career on fire!

Are You Up For The Challenge?
1. Are you crystal clear about what you want from your career? Do you really want to become a strategic partner? If so, why? How good do you want to be? Top 25%, 10%, 1%? How would you rate your level of commitment? What is the ultimate benefit you are after? More money? More power? More responsibility? Career growth? Greater acknowledgement? It is important to understand the big "Why", so you can refer back to it during challenging times.

2. Define what you like most about HR. Will you be able to do more or less of it in a strategic role? For example, will you have to abandon any of your "duties" in the role of "Employee Champion" to become a strategic partner?

3. Focus on your highest and best use. What can you do better than anyone else? What are you gifted at? Eliminate wasteful activities, outsource administrative ones, and focus like a laser beam on what you do best. Write down the five things you can do best and then circle the two things you love doing best. Chances are this is your highest and best use

4. Fast Company magazine claims today's mantra for success is "change, learning and leadership." To what extent are you conversant and able to add value to your company in these three critical areas?

5. How does your academic and professional background affect your human resource focus? Do you have a degree in HR management? Do you have a financial background, or one in sales? Do you need to broaden your academic background?

6. It is the expectation in corporate world that strategic partners have an MBA. Enroll in part time MBA classes and watch the perception of your value to the organization grow dramatically.

7. Don’t over commit. This is a quick way to lose credibility. Delivery is key to strategic success. Focus on three critical deliverables at a time. Do not dwell on trivial concerns.

8. Maintain your mental and physical balance. If you are over-worked and lack proper sleep, exercise or diet, you will make you a poor candidate for the executive boardroom.

9. Expect to grow. Like crazy. Sometimes in ways least expected. Your professional growth is limited only by your imagination. Dialogue with the President or CEO about your career expectations. Get their support for your career growth in advance. Use "up front" contracts. Get your understandings in writing.

10. Be prepared to address other people’s judgment about the human resource function. For example, some people may feel that "human resources is an administrative function" or "you don’t know about business." Know what emotional filters to expect and how you will respond to them.

11. Be prepared to accept the pressures, risks and rewards that come with being a strategic partner. Becoming a strategic partner involves many trade offs. With added responsibility will come added stress, as well as a bigger paycheck. It may also mean less personal/family time, recreation time, lunch hours, extended coffee breaks, etc.

12. The mantra for today’s leader is "the less you control, the more you can do." If you want to take on new responsibilities you must learn to delegate. Make sure you delegate to people with the skills and character necessary to be trustworthy so you can free up your time to focus on critical functions.

13. Be prepared to make mistakes…and take responsibility for them. The more risks you take and the faster you learn what doesn’t work, the faster you will advance in your career.

14. Think "out of the box". The "processional" or "lateral" effect of events and decision-making must be explored. In other words, be creative, experiment, test and find out.

15. Develop a strategic plan. Identify your long-term vision, the mission that will take you there and the goals that you must meet to stay on course. Put it in writing and update it every 90 days.

16. Read at least one business book every month. A great short book to read is A New Vision For Human Resources by Jac Fitz-enz & Jack J. Phillips. Dave Ullrich’s books, including HR Champions, are also excellent. Also, listen to books on tape. At least one per month. Many excellent books and tapes are available for free at your public library.
Dealing With Other Strategic Executives

17. Get their attention! You have to be your own best public relations consultant. One way to get someone to notice you is to send him or her an article they may find of interest. Send it with a simple "FYI" and let them be impressed with your business acumen.

18. Always be prepared when speaking with other strategic partners. You only have to be unprepared once to lose your credibility.

19. Take other executives to lunch at a restaurant you know they’ll enjoy. Then, when you get to speak with them, focus on them. Don’t tell them everything that you can do, dig to find out their needs and pain.

20. Understand something from the world of sales. Don’t focus on telling people what you can do. Focus on getting them to ask, "Can you help with ______?" Better it is "their idea" than yours.

21. Once you have their interest, get to the point. Executives do not like longwinded explanations – period. Find out in advance what their commitments will be if you are able to meet certain value-added propositions. Then write up in a one page follow-up memo to memorialize the understanding.

22. When presenting information, stick to one page "hot sheets." Too much information results in overload and shut-down. Keep it simple and let them know you have additional information readily available.

23. Do not allow yourself to be bullied, manipulated or sabotaged by other executives. Speak in "I" terms and make sure the other person does too. If they cross over into your emotional space or take credit for your efforts, let them know you feel such conduct is unacceptable and define possible consequences. Then do what you say you were going to do. Get help when dealing with villains.

24. Do not fear losing your job. If you find yourself fighting against a management philosophy that simply "doesn’t get it" then it is time for you to move on. Don’t fight it. There’s always another job. You deserve the opportunity to be a strategic partner!

25. Learn about the business you are in. Read industry related magazines and journals. Attend industry conferences. Learn the facts and trends. Speak the language.

26. Find out the vision of those at the top. Don’t assume their objectives or values, ask them. Dig deeper when the opportunity arises. Then help communicate it to the rest of the workforce.

27. Get involved in the strategic planning process. Create a strategic plan for your department. Don’t wait for someone else to ask you to do it. Just do it.

28. Ask for feedback on your job performance from other executives, as well as your subordinates and peers. Be open to their insights and suggestions. You want to create an environment of "radical honesty" when it comes to in assessing your progress. Ask what is going well, what can go better and what else would they like to share. Then say "thanks" and do something positive with the feedback. Immediately.

29. Be prepared to dress the part of a successful executive. You lead with all your actions and can’t afford to look more casual than your peers.

Money, Money, Money

30. You must have a complete understanding of finances. If you are not well versed in accounting, or cannot analyze a financial statement, consider taking an accounting class at your local community college. Go to www.amazon.com and buy The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack and The Accounting Game by Darrell Mullis and Judith Orloff.

31. Learn how to measure and benchmark. If you are not sure how to do this, read Jac Fitz-Enz’s book, The ROI of Human Capital: Measuring the Economic Value of Employee Performance. As the author states, today’s strategic HR executive has to show how he or she contributes to the organization’s service, quality and productivity (SQP).

32. Keep a scorecard to help document your success. Benchmark the costs of turnover, training, recruitment, benefits, compensation and other aspects of the employee relationship. Focus on leading factors more than past results. Strategic partners know how to speak in "bottom-line" terms. See the HR That Works! Cost Calculator.

33. Reduce the incidence of unwanted turnover in your organization. We estimate the cost of turnover for a $50,000 a year employee to be in excess of $50,000! How many unnecessary turnovers can you help prevent? See our Sample Turnover Cost Calculator.

34. Show how outsourcing administrative functions will allow you to focus on your highest and best use while saving the company time and money in the process. Potential vendors should be more than pleased to help you with this calculation.

Hire Only The Best

35. Your most important job will always be to help the company hire great people. This means pre-hire job needs analysis, meaningful interviews, extensive background checks, credit, criminal and driving investigations where appropriate, skills assessment, character assessment and drug testing. Develop a sound hiring process and follow it every time. We recommend www.brainbench.com and www.zeroriskhr.com to help judge applicant skills and character. We recommend www.infolinkscreening.com to perform your credit, criminal and other background checks.

36. Take full advantage of online recruiting. Online recruiting can cut costs and expand your hiring sources. If you don’t already have an online recruiting program on your web site, take a look at www.careerscout.com.

37. Involve co-employees in the hiring process. It is the first step in building team chemistry. Encourage and reward qualified candidate referrals. Have future co-employees involved in the interviewing process. Use the Co-Employee Applicant Appraisal form.

38. Form a strong relationship with a few temporary employment firms. Make sure they know your personnel needs. Make sure you know how they hire, train, compensate and manage their employees. If you face a downsizing, they can help by finding work for displaced employees.

39. Develop a fun and powerful employee orientation process. Cap it off by having the employee complete the 60-Day New Employee Survey where they give insight into the hiring and orientation process, as well as how they are adjusting to their new role with the company. Tap into their fresh insights while you can.
Increasing Productivity

40. Learn about how technology can help the h.r. function. Become a master of human resource information systems (HRIS) such as those sold by SAP and PeopleSoft. Once you’ve mastered that, then learn about workflow technology.

41. Get to know the management philosophies of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. He is credited with developing the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM). Read a Deming book and learn his 14 Principles. Take a visit to www.deming.org.

42. Study the competition. What human resource initiatives are other companies doing that are producing favorable results? How can you model or test these initiatives at your company? Remember, just because they did it first doesn’t mean you can’t do it too! Don’t get caught with a "not invented here" mentality.

43. Get familiar with character assessment and development tools by taking a half dozen or more of them yourself. Most companies (ZeroRisk HR, ClearDirection, Predictive Index, McQuaid, DISC, etc.) will allow you to take at least one free examination if they view you as a potential client. You can be in charge of increasing your company’s collective E.Q. We recommend www.zeroriskhr.com for the hiring process. Tell them we sent you and get two assessments for free.

44. Survey the workforce. Constantly. Use open-ended questions and don’t make responses optional or anonymous. Post the results. Encourage employees to speak up without fear. Consider using our Employee Survey. Test its effectiveness on a few of your employees to assure yourself of its many benefits.

45. Develop an employee suggestion program that works. Start with the I-Power program available for only $99 at www.I-Power.com. It’s based on a Peter Drucker suggestion. Tell ‘em we sent you.

46. Make sure your job descriptions are up-to-date and accurately reflect the "value added aspects of the job." Involve employees in identifying essential job performance functions.

47. Eliminate traditional performance appraisal thinking. It seldom improves performance. It is your job to help eliminate "more than/less than" thinking in the workplace and focus on what is going right and what can get even better. Save poor performance discipline for warning notices and counseling. Take a look at the Performance Improvement Dialogue Worksheet.

48. Help employees go through the career mapping process. Help them discover where they want to go and define the skills and character traits they will need to get there. If you can’t expand job opportunities for valuable employees you will lose them.

49. Train the workforce constantly. Education is the greatest form of leverage. Very simply, companies that train more earn more. Consider use of our Training Modules. You can further develop your training abilities by becoming a member of ASTD (www.astd.org).

Legal Compliance

50. Educate business partners on ever-changing personnel law obligations. Make sure your handbook and personnel policies are up to date. Help prevent claims by training managers and the rank and file. Either do it yourself, or work with your local employment law firm.

51. Think in terms of Management by Agreement. Bring employees in on compliance decision-making and memorialize the mutual commitments. In writing.

52. Work with an experienced employment law attorney to audit your personnel practices. Use them in advance to help make critical personnel decisions. What a company should be after is wise decision making – not cheap decision making.

53. Make sure your company purchases a comprehensive Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy. Work with a knowledgeable broker to help advise them on different coverage options and claims management history. See the EPLI Coverage Worksheet.

54. Distribute the Compliance Survey at least every six months. Make sure employees know their rights and obligations and that no violations exist.

55. Get yourself access to the entire HR That Works! Program (www.hrthatworks.com). These materials were designed to help increase productivity and protect the bottom line – guaranteed!

Belonging and Mentoring

56. Meet with other human resource executives who strive to be strategic partners. Join a mastermind groups such as the citehr.com, NHRD etc or simply take each other to lunch. You will need the support of professionals outside your company if you are to become a strategic partner. Support each other’s challenges and help each other commit to getting things done.

57. Step up the depth of your relationship with professionals from the insurance, legal and accounting professions. Buy ‘em a lunch and ask a whole bunch of questions. Then immediately do something with what you have learned.

58. If you haven’t already done so, obtain the SPHR Certification from the Society for Human Resource Management (www.shrm.org) or IPMA Certification from the International Personnel Management Association (www.ipma.org). You can also get specialized certification related to compensation and benefits from World At Work (www.worldatwork.org ).

59. Be prepared to give back. Take an inexperienced HR professional under your wing. Help them discover their highest and best use.

60. Volunteer to a non-profit organization that can use an hour or two of HR advice during the week. Teach a class at your local community college. Remember, what goes around comes around!

61. Get out and speak to non-h.r. executives about the benefits of HR as a strategic partner. Be a spokesperson for the cause. Speak at Kiwanis, Chamber and other business events. Help people discover the power of building powerful employment relationships!
Get Paid What You Are Worth

62. Truly strategic HR partners are in high demand. Find out what similarly situated professionals are getting paid. Go to local salary surveys, check with your peers, and look at online resources such as www.salary.com. Check in with HR recruiters such as www.donnadavisassociates.com.

63. Negotiate for bonuses based on your ability to directly impact the bottom line. For example, if you are able to reduce unwanted turnover by 50%, what bonus should you be entitled to? How can you tie your compensation to your success as a strategic partner?

64. Shop around your resume. This does not mean you are not committed to your employer. It means you are investigating your true potential and giving yourself career options. This will allow you to negotiate from in a position of strength.

Publicize And Celebrate Your Success

65. Don’t just let your success stories sit there – publicize them! Use intra-company newsletters. Pin a note on the bulletin board. Send an article to an industry or HR publication. Send out an intra-company news release. Strategic partners know the value of tooting their own horn. So should you.

66. Celebrate every chance you get. Reward yourself and others when things go well – and for no reason at all!

Many consider becoming a strategic partner as the greatest challenge for today’s human resource executive. It is a challenge that beings within. You will have to shift your focus from administrative to "value-added." You will have to become a master of finances, benchmarking, planning and empowerment. Once you know who you are and what you want to do, you have prepared for success.
Becoming a strategic partner will be a rewarding experience. You can do it!

Who I Will Become?:
The three things I want to be well known for in my career are:
Now Take Action!
Remember, the idea is to deliver, not over-commit. Stick to the "Rule of Three" and your success is guaranteed