What does it take to succeed as a HR leader?

A HR leader’s success can be measured by the presence HR has in the senior management decision making process, and this is an important qualitative measurement that indicates whether HR has become a trusted business partner and has transitioned effectively from an internal compliance function.

Furthermore, a seat at the decision making table is earned by having the necessary HR experience, but also by being able to apply that knowledge pragmatically to the business operations.

Speaking to Inside HR about career development and important HR capabilities, Jane McGregor, human resources leader (WA operations) for Automotive Holdings Group, said demonstrating genuine understanding of the business is critical.

“In order to earn a seat at the table, it is important to invest time in understanding your organisation’s business model and industry intricacies to pre-empt potential initiatives that add value,” she said.

“As my employer is a large ASX 200 multinational, I report directly to the general manager of operations rather than the MD. This is a key relationship as all strategic HR initiatives need the support of the GM to be implemented effectively.”

“One of my key challenges has been to provide accurate and relevant financial metrics such as return on investment for our HR initiatives”

The most important aspect of this relationship is trust, McGregor explained. “This is essential to success; it’s critical to build and maintain trust, I do this by ensuring I deliver on what I say I’m going to do, I keep my GM well informed of the always changing HR landscape, and ensure I have robust conversations and look to offer a different a range of views on HR initiatives.”

As a business that is highly guided by metrics and figures, she said it is important to speak the language of operations for HR to effectively communicate with the business.

“One of my key challenges has been to provide accurate and relevant financial metrics such as return on investment for our HR initiatives,” she said.

“This has been particularly challenging as we are a developing HR function, however by ensuring that these metrics are provided where possible I have been able to drive successful initiatives.

“Where they’re not possible, I ensure I ‘sell’ the long term strategic benefits and tailor them to the heart of the business needs.

A primary business focus in the Automotive Holdings Group automotive division is vehicle retail, which includes, new and used vehicle sales, finance, after sales products, vehicle servicing and sale of automotive parts.

“Being a retail and customer centric business we measure everything from the customer service indexes to gross per retail unit sold, volume of sales, labour productivity and workshop efficiency, just to name a few,” said McGregor.

“To show ROI on HR initiatives we use a combination of HR metrics including, retention, to evidence success of recruitment practises, on-boarding and training of new sales trainees; also to bring to life overall sales trainee program success and to ensure we talk directly to the heart of the business we measure trainee sales targets compared to benchmark and then trainee sales figures compared to staff who haven’t completed the AHG sales traineeship.”