The other day I was speaking with Reg Bull. Reg is the former CHRO of LG Electronics and he spent about 25 years at Unilever, his last role there as Global EVP HR for HR Transformation. For a person who has had some pretty big responsibilities on his shoulders, including a billion dollar deal stretching seven years, Reg is a charming down to earth guy.One of my pet topics is HR being at the table (or not). When I talk to practitioners, there’s usually two sets of responses I get to this issue. Either these guys are part of the game or they’ve been left out. The beauty in this experience though is that this is not something cast in stone. It doesn’t have to remain that way. Nearly all the successful HR directors and senior managers I’ve spoken to, have at one time or another, done the hard yards.
They’ve spent time having to work harder than most to get their point or vision heard. They have spent the time to prove their worth and mettle. The fact is that none of them argued about having the goods but not being recognised. If they aren’t, they do what they need to, to put themselves out there.
When I mentioned about HR complaining about not ‘being at the table’ to Reg, he said that “I have heard HR complaining at times about ‘not being at the table’. Well, that was never my experience in Unilever and I see it that HR is partly to blame if it is the case elsewhere. If HR is not having the courage to sit with other business leaders and challenge them, you’ve got to do something about it. You’ve got to show and demonstrate the business value. Too many spend their effort and time on doing the administrative thing and on waiting to be asked. An interesting point to note from my experience about Asian culture is that there can be an issue of deference to power and authority. I don’t want to be disrespectful about this but the issue is that if you wait to always be asked, don’t be surprised if you don’t get the call!”
Don’t wait to be called. Don’t wait to be asked to that project – if it interests you, if you can see yourself doing good things with it, then put your hand up. Don’t take a quick no for an answer.
Be firm, be clear about what you want, be brave. When the good comes, it will come to you too.