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HR's Path to Strategic Partnership:
Proven Collaboration Tactics

Four colorful puzzle pieces fit on a background with single puzzle pieces scattered.
Hacking HR Team

Posted on February 29, 2024

When HR strategies happen in isolation, the ripple effects can be substantial. Studies indicate that poor cross-functional partnership contributes to over 5% of preventable productivity losses yearly due to disjointed priorities. Misaligned hiring practices, delayed strategic planning, and reactive modes also emerge.

However, an evolution is afoot in 2024. Collaborative influence becomes the skill that elevates HR leaders from supporting players to strategic partners shaping enterprise success. More than cooperation, this influence means forming alliances across business units to get ahead of needs with forward-thinking solutions. HR professionals in smaller companies see the impact potential yet struggle to balance strategic priorities with daily demands.

While some old-school mentalities still relegate HR to an administrative function, the opportunity horizon is bright for reshaping these outdated assumptions. As a keeper of insights across people operations and talent trends, HR now has an unprecedented chance to guide executive decisions through collaborative leadership - not just compliance.

9 Ways HR Builds Collaborative Influence

Becoming an influential partner doesn’t happen by chance. It requires shifting assumptions through consistent effort. The good news? Small intentional collaborations compound and perceptions change over time. Consider the following tactics as a springboard for maximizing cross-functional influence.

While some leaders cling to notions of HR as mainly administrative, there’s an unprecedented chance to steer executive decisions in small and large companies. Adopt an investor mindset around partnerships, and remember – your influence multiplies through those you enable.

What if HR framed itself as an "investor" in enterprise success rather than a "support" function? How might proactively co-owning business outcomes rather than waiting to be invited shift our influence? The following steps are a springboard for putting this investor mindset into action.

1. Speak the language of business

Revenue. Customer retention. Productivity. HR initiatives impact these critical measures, yet we don't always connect those dots. Mastering vital terms and metrics beyond the HR domain quickly builds credibility with other leaders. For inspiration, study how your CEO communicates priorities in earnings calls.

2. Embrace data fluency

Reporting engagement survey scores is one thing. Using sharp data visualizations that spotlight productivity levels, attrition risk, hiring velocity, and workforce capacity, gaps make stranger bedfellows suddenly take notice. Allocate time each week to level up your dashboard skills – it’s the language of 2024.

3. Seek out cross-functional projects

Silo-busting starts small. Identify one initiative outside your normal scope where HR can add value or apply staff engagement expertise. Infrastructure upgrades, customer experience workgroups, and expansion projects – all present partnership opportunities while building your stakeholder credibility. The key is proactively volunteering, not waiting for an invite.

4. Leverage "micro-collaborations"

Big collaborations feel high stakes. But quick wins based on department pain points build trust that carries collaboration cachet. Does production struggle with last-minute callouts? Is support battling training gaps? Tailor solutions to granular frustrations, then showcase the pilot results over brown bag lunches. Influence accrues one micro-partnership at a time.

5. Master the art of 'the ask'

Framing requests in business terms is collaboration diplomacy 101. Does payroll need updated tech to support aggressive hiring plans this year? Tie the justification language clearly to revenue impact. Does the CX team seek leadership workshops to retain star talent? Link retention to customer loyalty protection. Speak the language that mission-critical stakeholders speak.

6. Highlight shared successes

Collaboration can’t be a one-way street if it’s to reach its potential. After jointly executing an HR-driven people initiative, showcase the center stage business impact loud and clear. Whether it’s sales increases, NPS lifts, or efficiency gains, cutting across functions is about shared outcomes – so celebrate the stars accordingly.

7. Invest in "soft power" skills

Technology will continue dominating headlines, but human skills will separate mature collaborators. Empathy to understand diverse motivations. Insight to turn conflicts towards solutions. Curiosity asking thoughtful questions then intently listening. This “soft” power unlocks partnerships impervious to purely technical talent.

8. Find your internal champions

Every business unit has leaders who intuitively connect people's priorities to performance, often because they oversee customer-centric teams. Identify these advocacy allies and cultivate an informal advisory network through regular touchbases. Not only will they validate your influence, but they can also guide collaboration opportunities tailored to each function’s reality.

9. Ditch the reactive mindset

The best partnerships get ahead of the curve and then build momentum; they don’t lay in wait for a spark. Set quarterly strategy sync-ups with sales, marketing, operations, and finance. Come informed with conversation catalysts: talent trends reshaping their domain, innovations stirring in adjacent industries ripe for inspiration. Shape the future; don’t just react to landscapes.

The 'what' of collaboration is often discussed, but the 'how' is where HR professionals truly stand out. The following section explores the skills and knowledge underpinning your collaborative influence in the years to come.

6 Things HR Should Master for Stronger Partnerships

Mindset shifts undoubtedly precede success when collaborating across functions. Capability development, however, translates intention into impact. Consider this suite of in-demand skills the keys to unlocking strategic partnerships - particularly for resource-constrained HR generalists.

As SMB HR professionals juggle competing priorities with smaller teams, cross-functional dexterity accelerates enterprise influence exponentially. While mastering everything at once can feel overwhelming, invest focus hours into building one competency each quarter.

Between balancing specialized hard skills and amplifying soft power strengths, how are you mapping targeted capability growth to propel this year’s partnership goals?

1. Business Acumen

Many HR professionals default to reporting impacts just within the people domain. But understanding the revenue priorities, cost considerations, and competitive forces influencing business priorities lets you link your work's value clearly. Is your rising turnover in manufacturing jeopardizing on-time delivery KPIs? Show how addressing untapped attrition drivers this quarter better protects production targets next quarter.

2. Data Storytelling

Metrics matter differently these days, but the fundamental human insights behind them shine brightest. Move beyond basic reporting. Transform retention rates, learning hours completed, and recruiting cycle times into relatable stories that spotlight capability gaps, employee pain points, and talent trends; leaders must know to act faster on decisions that fuel growth.

3. Project Mindset

Collaboration flourishes when teams have a unified vision of success. Treat initiatives like expanded employee resource groups, open enrollment learning calendars, or intranet redesigns no differently than product launches. Define milestones, outline dependencies, establish governance rhythms, and use tracking tools finance and operations colleagues recognize. Meet them in the middle.

4. Consultative Approach

Transactional HR maintains outdated support stereotypes. Shift beyond being viewed as policy watchdogs into true consultants guiding strategic opportunity areas. Does marketing seek retention insights on high-potential creators? Are engineers requesting career path clarity to anchor rising stars? Move into solution exploration mode first and redirect to standards second.

5. Negotiation Savvy

All collaborations involve give and take once ideas turn into resourced execution plans. When stakeholders pit priorities against each other, avoid acquiescence or avoidance. Master negotiation techniques that find common ground, like separating interests from positions, establishing objective criteria, and considering alternatives outside initial parameters. Expand the pie before dividing it.

6. Remote Collaboration Tools

Asynchronous workflows rule modern business partnerships. Move beyond relying solely on email chains to foster collaboration. Centralize relevant documents onto team sites. Use virtual whiteboarding to workshop solutions synchronously. Toggle video conversations and screen shares fluidly. And integrate dynamic project dashboards into your change management rhythm.

12 Tactics to Boost Collaborative Influence

While skills build capability, taking consistent action cements collaborative influence. Consider the following tangible steps: quick-win partnerships you can launch immediately despite bandwidth constraints.

Avoid one-size-fits-all mentalities. Instead, pinpoint 2-3 prime opportunity areas where HR can uniquely impact goals critical for this year's priority business projects. Reverse engineer the appropriate actions below to maximize mutual return on effort.

Channel empathy first before executing operational plans. Truly effective collaboration is grounded in curiosity about diverse motivations across functions. Use the following actions to demonstrate expertise and understand what keeps partners up at night and where complementary strengths can unlock shared objectives.

  1. Map your stakeholders: Identify your core departmental decision drivers and key influencer groups for major cross-functional initiatives in sales, marketing, product development, etc. This will highlight potential allies for prioritized partnership building.

  2. Schedule listening sessions: Step beyond crisis-driven departmental interactions. Book recurring 30-minute one-on-one tours solely gathering frustrations and aspirations across crucial teams. Facilitate open knowledge sharing without judgment.

  3. Offer targeted training: Surgical training tailored to granular department capability gaps unlocks reciprocal partnership potential quickly. Notice trends - does marketing need deeper analytics fluency to optimize campaign ROI? Offer a tactical 4-hour workshop transferring in-demand skills.

  4. Volunteer for task forces: Reflexively raising your hand for time-bound initiatives deposits tangible influence credibility, whether shaping back-to-work protocols or providing workforce pulse input on potential market expansions.

  5. Initiate quarterly check-ins: Sync-ups prevent silo entropy. Formalize a quarterly cadence of bilateral conversations (30-60 mins) between HR and critical department heads focused on mutual priority setting, trend spotting, solution brainstorming, and opportunity mapping to uncover synergies.

  6. Track collaborative milestones: Build shared dashboards codifying milestone accomplishments from cross-functional partnerships, solving granular department capability gaps and enterprise-wide talent optimization needs.

  7. Adopt a shared project management tool: Reduce status report redundancies by unifying project tracking. Jointly champion adopting a system accessible to HR and requesting groups providing up-to-date progress visibility. There are multiple PM platforms to connect teams through workflows.

  8. Propose data exchange pilots: Start incrementally by proposing tightly scoped analytics ring-fencing pilots between HR and another function anxiously needing but under-leveraging people insights for priority impact areas like manager effectiveness signals. Secure visibility builds trust over time through demonstrated value.

  9. Solicit feedback proactively: Prevent perceptions of analytical indifference. Set Google Calendar triggers for bi-annual five-question pulse checks soliciting qualitative feedback from key stakeholders on HR partnership effectiveness - what’s working optimally, what could improve, where should focus shift next? Listen first, then refine jointly.

  10. Celebrate wins publicly: Wins shouldn’t be kept secret as if collaboration carries political sensitivity. In monthly department huddles, publicly highlight partnership success spotlights - whether it’s improved new hire ramp with data-driven onboarding or retention gains from cross-functional mentor programs. Applause is affirmation.

  11. Document lessons learned: Debriefs enable maturity. Schedule action-focused retro meetings after completing joint projects, key milestones, or quarterly to discuss dynamics. What synergized seamlessly? Where did friction slow progress? Mutual accountability breeds excellence.

  12. Formalize mentorship opportunities: Develop job shadow programs or informal mentor circles between HR and priority functions like Sales Ops, Total Rewards, and Recruiting. Structured exchanges propagate expertise osmosis and empathetic understanding both ways. 7HR As Organizational Influencer CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

Your Actionable Roadmap

  1. Audit current involvement: Ask your stakeholders directly: How frequently do we collaborate? Do you perceive strategic value from HR? Where do process bottlenecks hamper collaboration? What skills would strengthen the partnership? Tally results to determine capability gaps.

  2. Define value proposition: For example: “By boosting our efficiency in providing targeted recommendations for strategic hiring requests in specialized sales roles, HR will directly enable hitting Q3 revenue targets.” Get granular on value in their terms.

  3. Build a communication plan: Align HR teams through proactive internal messaging. Share core talking points, everyday vocabulary, collaboration success stories, team calls, and post-partnership feedback loops to unify support and experience.

  4. Choose pilot projects: Start with quick but high visibility wins where HR strengths resolve a known stakeholder priority pain need—like an urgent leader bench capability gap assessment or a remote manager upskill program. Demonstrate capabilities.

  5. Iterate and scale: Extract lessons from regular pilot reviews to strengthen engagement processes and sustainably scale impactful collaboration across the enterprise. Reflection and process rigor prevent one-off pet projects.

Key Insights

  1. Trust compounds slowly: View collaboration as a long game. Influence accumulates through consistently demonstrating aligned priorities via tangible quick wins first. Patience pays compound interest.

  2. Adapt or stall: True partnership requires HR to occasionally adjust processes to enable business goals directly despite preconceptions or comfort zones. User-centricity leads.

  3. Quantify the impact: Tangible metrics push progressed perceptions most effectively - whether reducing product launch delays via strategic hiring or boosting customer satisfaction through targeted retention programs. Track what matters to partners.

  4. Leverage networks first: Significant collaborations are built incrementally through trusted individual relationships across functions. These influential champions then seed more scaled partnerships by spreading belief from within.

Key Questions To Ask

By anchoring collaborations in measurable workforce optimization metrics tightly aligned to revenue, customer value, and productivity goals. Connected ROI spotlights HR’s role as a strategic driver beyond traditional perceptions.

Silos thrive on disconnected goals, poor communication, and doubtful value assumptions. Combat these through selectively co-owning business projects first, learning cross-functional languages, and spotlighting quick win impact on pain points, then scaling up.

The secret for time-crunched HR pros: bite-sized partnerships. Offer concentrated solutions tackling immediate department headaches like streamlined sales onboarding or manager capability micro-workshops. Small wins build trust for bolder collaboration.

Given how remote work and workforce mobility shape collaborative skill demands, ongoing capability building enables relevance. Prioritize leveling up your data storytelling and interpreting organizational network nuances. Savviness snowballs influence.

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