HR, as a business function, has been making enormous strides in recent years. Once thought to be all about onboarding and “paper pushing,” HR is seen in many businesses as a key business driver.
Businesses realize that growth depends on attracting top talent, managing and developing leaders, and cultivating the right company culture. It is also about being on top of myriad risk management issues.
Today’s HR professionals must be prepared to help an organization navigate change - which, these days, is basically a given. With technology continually evolving and challenging the way in which business is done, companies need to embrace innovation and adaptability.
A prime example of a HR leader who embodies these qualities and skill sets is Brian Baxter, SPHR, chief human resources officer at Modere, a lifestyle company with a portfolio of safe and innovative personal care, health & wellness, and household products. He is also a board member of the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), a premier global credentialing organization for the human resources profession.
Baxter first pursued an HRCI certification in 2007 as a way to stand out amongst his peers and better understand his skill set. Now, to keep up with changes in the field, he also pursues recertification every three years.
This year, certification has been a particularly challenging one for Baxter, as he has been helping Modere navigate substantial changes to its business model and company culture. Modere shifted its strategy to focus on ecommerce, which changed the required skill sets of the customer service and marketing teams. These new skill sets had to be either acquired or developed within the organization, he explains.
“Certification helped me understand a broad array of talent acquisition and talent development strategies so we could attract and hire the right people, and also figure out how to coach current employees so they could develop these new skill sets,” says Baxter. Baxter is convinced that had he not pursued certification, developing those strategies would have taken longer, and he probably would have missed some important steps.
Data - HR’s New Secret Weapon
Baxter notes that data is playing an increasingly important role in HR. HR professionals with a proficiency for analyzing and managing data can better stay ahead of business challenges, as well as opportunities. This skill isn’t traditionally associated with the profession, but it is something people can develop as part of a certification program.
“As you understand and interpret data correctly and make impactful recommendations as you consult with your CEO, you become more credible,” he says.
For example, Baxter and his team used data from Modere’s employee engagement survey to understand how the team was dealing with the company’s transformation. The survey results revealed that the management team had been rolling out changes so quickly that it had forgotten to take the time to say “thank you” and show gratitude for people’s hard work. “Our surveys showed this blind spot, and, as a result, we have implemented a better recognition program,” he says.
While some business leaders still hold onto old-fashioned perceptions of HR, a growing number of executives are embracing HR’s role in setting and implementing new strategies and managing all the changes that come with it. Baxter believes the onus is also on HR professionals to proactively provide value.
“You need business leaders who are willing to engage HR professionals, and you need HR professionals who strive to be true consultants to the C-suite,” he says.
HR leaders can earn the respect of the C-suite in many ways. One of the most powerful ways, of course, is to constantly learn and grow. Certification is a clear way to demonstrate such credibility.
HR leaders like Baxter, ones with the dedication and drive to succeed, are giving us a glimpse of how critical a role HR can have in business today and the potential for an even more enhanced role in years to come.