12 ingredients for HR with impact – A checklist for CEOs –

In my conversations with HR directors and CEOs regularly the question arises: what is good (or even better "world class") HR? In this article I review 12 ingredients of what I consider good HR. Good HR is HR that makes a major contribution to achieving the objectives of the business: HR with impact.

1. HR speaks the language of business
The HR handbook has many chapters. Many HR professionals want to implement the complete handbook. Much time has already been lost with the design and implementation of competency profiles. Because HR wants them so badly. However, the starting point for HR should not be the HR handbook, but the current issues of the business. HR must understand these issues, and then choose and design the most impactful HR intervention.
Question 1: To what extent does your HR team speaks the language of the business?
2. HR works multidisciplinary
In many organizations, the staff is divided into different areas. Finance, Legal, Strategy, Communications, Knowledge Management, IT, HR and special projects. This division can lead to silos and power struggles between the staff departments. Which department has the ear of the CEO and the Board? Which department has the largest budget?
Most issues today require a multidisciplinary approach. Example: how can we connect our employees worldwide on different themes? Global communities can only be created if IT, HR, Communications and Legal join forces. HR is in the position to act as a connector between the different groups.
Question 2: How good is your HR team in connecting the various disciplines within the organization?
3. HR is more leader than follower
HR is often submissive. Submission is often accompanied by fear, and fear is a very bad adviser. Regularly I hear HR say: I think it is a good idea, but how do I sell it to my boss? I was recently in a meeting for HR professionals where a CIO told how in her organization, using Google+, a number of effective communities were created. The questions from the audience were focused on control. Who decides which communities are created? What do you do when people do not want to participate or if abuse is made?
Question 3: Which description fits better with your HR team: leaders or followers?
4. HR has clear principles
Each organization will benefit from clear and transparent principles. The values of organizations are important and HR can be a good guardian of these values. ‘Integrity’ is in most organizations one of the published values. In translating the values of the organization in desired behavior for leaders and other employees, HR can play an important role. 
Also in the design of compensation and benefits, it is important to be guided by clear principles.
Question 4: Does HR have clear principles?
5. HR is flexible
If you ask HR a question, the answer is generally: this is not possible / this is not allowed. Equality and fairness are often important principles for HR. This makes it difficult for HR to make exceptions. Because if we do that for you, everybody will come along! If you want to promote diversity and if you want to get the best out of employees, it fits less and less to apply rules to which no exceptions can be made.
Question 5: Is your HR department sufficiently flexible and client focused?
6. HR has a sense of humor
There is often too little laughter. We have to hurry! We have to move on! It helps if HR can take some distance, and adds some humor to the mix. What are we doing? Do we not take ourselves too seriously?
Question 6: Can you laugh with HR or do you laugh about HR?
7. HR likes to experiment
Too much time is wasted in developing and discussing plans. While you are discussing plans, nothing happens. What we want is often not so difficult to determine. We want motivated employees. We want the strategy to be understood. We want the best people in the right place.
It is more difficult to determine how we can achieve our goals. Experimenting helps. Do a test with a small group and see if it works. “Whatever works” could also be the motto for HR.
Question 7: Does your HR team dare to experiment?
8. HR can implement
See point 7: not the What but the How is often the problem. There is a graveyard with plans that are not or half-heartedly implemented. HR must be the king of fast and successful implementation.
Question 8: Is your HR good at implementing major projects?
9. HR dares to innovate
Many organizations want to copy other organizations. The benchmark thinking preached by many consulting organizations has done no good. Why would you want to do what others do? Why would you not want to be an innovator and front-runner? HR can take the lead, especially because many of the current HR practices need to be renewed.
Question 9: Does your HR team dare to innovate?
10. HR has a strong network
The network of HR can work as an accelerator. If HR has quick access to partners with unique knowledge, HR can quickly implement creative and innovative solutions. HR as a spider in the network of change agents and key employees of the organization, can quickly sense if changes can count on sufficient support. If the CHRO has a good network, she is able to build a strong HR team.
Question 10: Does HR have a large and strong network?
11. HR can calculate
With the current computing power it is possible to quickly analyze data. HR analytics provides the ability to produce facts and not opinions. Myths and prejudices can be unraveled. Predictions about the future can be made fact based.
Question 11: Does HR use of the opportunities offered by HR analytics?
12. HR comes with practical solutions
In the end organizations have to work. HR is there to come with simple workable solutions. Keep moving, and adapt to the increasing speed.
Question 12: Does HR come with practical and simple solutions?
An earlier version of this article was published, in Dutch, in the HR & Business Magazine (2015#1).
About the author: Tom Haak is the founder and director of the HR Trend Institute (http://hrtrendinstitute.com). Prior to founding the HR Trend Institute in 2014, Tom held senior HR positions in companies as ARCADIS, Aon, KPMG and Philips.