Which part of HR’s agenda is most important to the business?

Numerous HR action points can contribute to the progression of a business, but what one is responsible for its success? HR leaders share their thoughts...

Words by Jade Burke | Design by Matt Bonnar

Words by Jade Burke

Design by Matt Bonnar

Compensation & benefits, learning & development, compliance, wellbeing and talent management are among the different HR functions that help to power both the day-to-day and the long term operation of a business. It’s a pretty comprehensive and impressive list, right? In fact, most businesses know that without HR things start to falter. For example, one survey, from CareerBuilder, found that almost three-quarters of CEOs were driving strategy with HR data and that, as a result of the ongoing recession, there were listening to what HR leaders had to say with greater interest.

Not only that, but The Balance Careers previously commented on the importance of HR. The business said: “A good HR department is critical to an employee-oriented, productive workplace in which employees are energised and engaged.” It went on to state that HR is responsible for key organisational functions, such as culture, recruitment, employee benefits and budgeting among others, but while all of these are essential, it is worth asking which part of the HR remit is most important for driving business success.

"Employees who dislike their organisation’s culture are 24% more likely to quit" - Tiny Pulse

Yet, with various new elements also coming into play, such as the coronavirus pandemic, remote working and new technologies launching, the HR function that traditionally would have helped to drive business success may need reimagining. So, to find out what part of HR’s agenda is considered the most business critical myGrapevine magazine spoke to some HR leaders to gauge their thoughts on what function they believe is the most important to drive business success, with the overall consensus indicating that culture is most critical.

"Culture is equally important to jobseekers as 46% cite it as very important when choosing to apply to a company" - Jobvite

Company culture

According to Deloitte, 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. This is also something that Ben Farmer, SVP for International HR at Sony Music, also concurs with, as he believes this a critical function that HR teams must steer to ensure a business is successful.

“Culture is key to long-term business success and the HR function has a key role to play in that. However, I don’t think HR owns culture in a business,” he tells myGrapevine magazine. “It’s very much a shared responsibility with leaders across the business and all employees. That’s easy when you’re small, but much harder as you grow. Everyone in HR has to be seen to be upholding that culture, and live it in everything we do. It’s difficult to coach others to embrace a culture that the HR function doesn’t demonstrate.”

Aligning culture

While mapping out a company’s culture is important, Jon Maddison, EMEA Managing Director of Achievers, shares that HR must work on building culture alignment too. He notes that HR leaders have taken on the role “of being the guardians of company culture” and with that comes the importance of aligning company culture with its values and ethics. He says: “Whether it’s strategic decision-making, budgeting or hiring, your values should be the compass that you’re always seeking to align with.

“When your organisation’s culture is aligned, there is a distinctly positive effect on its profit. In addition, the more aligned an organisation is with its values, the more likely its employees will approve of their employer’s response to critical events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

"88% of employees believe a strong company culture is key to business success." - Deloitte

"85% of HR leaders say employee recognition programs helps with organisational culture" - The 2018 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Report

"Companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth" - Forbes

Embedding culture in a business

“Having a strong culture requires everyone to work very closely together to drive all of our big people priorities,” Emma Rose, HR Group Director of Travis Perkins, tells myGrapevine magazine. This is a notion that the HR head at the builders' merchants firm believes in, which she says has been critical in building its apprenticeship offering. Currently, the business has over 500 colleagues enrolled in its several different programmes and it is aiming to expand this by bringing in a further 500 new candidates, something that Rose hopes will embed Travis Perkins’ core culture into the business.

Rose explains: “It all comes back to that strong culture we have, and the close working relationship we have with the business, which enables us to design our offering around the business needs in a really proactive and responsive way. The scale of our business and our functions also helps, which means we can offer our candidates really wide-ranging training and development opportunities.”

The six 'talent magnets'

Numerous studies have indicated that employee happiness, morale and productivity can have a marked impact on a workplace, but Robert Ordever, Managing Director of workplace culture expert O.C. Tanner Europe, cites that there are six ‘talent magnets’ that HR leaders must identify and work towards in order to create a positive workplace culture. Ordever continues: “There are six 'talent magnets' that are the most important ingredients. These are leadership, purpose, opportunities, success, wellbeing and appreciation. HR’s role is to work with the business to ensure focus and continuous improvement around each of these six areas.”