Make Sure HR Gets a Seat at the ERP Planning Table

Updated: April 30, 2009

Introduction

At many businesses, the HR department's input is downplayed or even ignored when ERP systems are being developed. That's a shame, because the department plays a critical role in both daily and long-term business operations. Furthermore, integrating HR-generated data and insight into an ERP environment will benefit management , staff, investors and the company as a whole.

There are many reasons why HR's voice is often stifled during ERP planning sessions. Perhaps the most crucial reason is the fact that other departments, eager to justify their own importance to the business, are prone to paint HR as a reactive organization that has relatively little to offer in the way of strategic input or insight. To counter such negative views and to ensure that their department doesn't get shoved into second-tier status, HR leaders must buckle down and prove to corporate management that they have the data, knowledge and understanding necessary to make a significant impact on long-term planning.

Analysis

Think ahead. Many HR executives and managers are so busy taking care of their daily duties that they neglect to consider important issues that are coming down the road. This is a trap that any department can fall into, but it can be especially devastating for HR, which must battle decades of preconceived notions about the department's ability to contribute to corporate planning.

Thinking about the future doesn't require a significant extra investment in either time or energy, but it does demand a different mindset. When working on day-to-day hiring, payroll, benefits and other issues, HR executives and managers need to spend some extra time tracking trends and drawing conclusions. Keeping an eye on political and financial news, as well as considering how various business and societal trends are impacting HR operations, is the beginning of strategic thinking.

Develop strategic plans.
Thinking about the future is great, but it's also important to put thoughts into action. HR executives and managers need to mine their knowledge to create innovative plans that can be used to cut payroll costs, boost employee productivity or benefit the company in some other meaningful way; that's the difference between action and reaction.

Reach out. Developing a strategic plan is a good first step, but HR leaders also need to ensure that their best thoughts are seen by the people who count. HR executives should write down good ideas and distribute them to other company leaders. If the ideas are sound, executives and managers from other departments will soon begin seeking HR's counsel.

Speak up. Don't wait to be called on. Develop verbal skills, and don't hesitate to use them at company meetings. Let it be known that you are a person who views HR from a management perspective and is ready to contribute to strategic planning.

Be proactive. Don't wait for other department heads to ask for data. Begin offering regular breakdowns on key trends, and distribute the information to the people who can best use it. The HR department sits on a mountain of valuable data that can provide insight into areas such as employee retention , quality-of-life programs and succession planning . Then, be sure to let everyone know how much more HR could accomplish with effective ERP tools.

Hire intelligently. Look for people who will work competently and diligently, but also seek out individuals who can break out of the box with fresh ideas. During hiring interviews, ask candidates how they would help HR contribute to the company's success.

Bottom Line

Getting a seat at the ERP planning table should be viewed as only a single step in raising the HR department's profile. Once corporate leaders understand HR's value as a trends-and-analysis powerhouse, they'll be more likely to cast off old prejudices and begin treating the department as an equal and valued player.

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