HR needs commercial outlook

HR and benefits professionals require a commercial approach to their role to win support from their finance team for their initiatives.

Speaking in a panel debate, entitled ‘How do you get the FD on side? Tricks and tips for HR and benefits managers’, at Employee Benefits Live, Catherine Ward, group director, people and communications at BMI Healthcare, said this required a comprehensive understanding of the numbers of their organisation, including headcount costs, and a proactive stance on initiatives that deliver financial benefit to the business.

Ward also recommended that HR and benefits professionals calculate a range of fully-costed scenarios and options for prospective projects before pitching ideas to their finance peers, and cited long-term plans with mid to short-term project management as instrumental in finally winning their hearts and minds.

Rob Horrocks, finance director at Merlin Entertainments Group, added that a short-term focus was one of the top ways HR and benefits professionals can irritate their finance director. He recommended that HR and benefits professionals work to a three-year horizon. 

He also advised against ignoring the numbers, based on an assumption that finance would ‘fill in the blanks’, and assuming that finance colleagues do not care about employees and employee issues, which he said is not the case.

But he advised that one of the greatest changes HR and benefits professionals can make is to become visibly organised by providing clear deliverables and timetables, and to be as proactive as possible.