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How HR can influence its leadership teams

2022 is bringing a greater focus on leadership teams than ever before. In times of uncertainty, everyone in an organisation turns towards their leaders, so it’s not really a huge surprise.

At WorkBuzz, we’re seeing it come through as one of the biggest drivers of engagement in the vast majority of our surveys. This is a real shift in the data from pre-pandemic results. So, how can HR influence its leadership teams for the future?

Listening is key

Firstly, we need to listen! Expectations have changed – individually and collectively. According to a Financial Times white paper entitled The Great Board Reboot, board performance is now judged on the following criteria:

Infographic showing the best ways to assess board performance

After business profitability, you can see that culture matters more than it ever has and is intertwined with the quality of leadership teams. Over the last three years, the world has asked leaders to step up in new ways. A different set of skills are now required to inspire, instil confidence, build trust, and create a shared belief in the future.

We often say at WorkBuzz that you can’t drive engagement, it’s a choice. All you can do is create an environment that your people choose to engage with. So, how do we hold leaders accountable from the top down to live and breathe this every day? To show up and display in their actions that they are doing what they say they will.

And what happens when you work in an organisation where this isn’t happening? What can you do as an HR leader to do the right thing and challenge the direction/ strategy and vision of the organisation?

1. Make sure you have a seat at the table

The pandemic has elevated the role of an HR leader more than ever before. Think about your people strategy and the impact it has on business performance. Rather than dealing with challenges after the fact, why not have an experienced HR leader on the board who can help prevent them from occurring in the first place?

“Boards have to show the sort of leadership that pulls the best of their organisations’ people and thinking into play,” says John Elkington, who has served on more than 70 boards and advisory boards.

“The best ones do exactly that – they are made up of people who are curious and committed – and who understand that the world changes, often in unexpected ways.”

2. Make data-driven decisions

Leverage all data available to you through employee listening and other means to back up your recommendations and play smart by linking this to your wider business strategy and objectives. It’s a lot harder to question insights created from data. If you are working with an external supplier who can support you with insights, even better. Sometimes it’s more powerful to hear the hard messages from a trusted third party who is one step removed.

3. Understand where the gaps are in leadership teams

If it’s about leadership capability, where are the gaps? What are the gaps? How does a great leader act? If it’s about wellbeing, what does this really mean? Outside of the company-wide initiatives, how do leaders check in on their teams? What support is there for them to have meaningful conversations? What does wellbeing mean to your people and how does this differ based on role/team/location? How do you know where things are working well so lessons can be learned from this and replicated in other areas? Basically, keep asking yourselves lots of questions!

4. Seek diversity of perspective and personality

Continue to challenge leadership recruitment and promotion at all levels. Push to ensure that all voices are represented and heard based on your organisation and sector. Encourage all leaders to explore their unconscious biases and seek to understand how this is affecting decision making to ensure inclusion isn’t just a tick box exercise.

 5. Look to your outer circle 

Continuous learning is key and it’s important that this comes from both internal and external networks to give you a broader range of perspectives and experiences. Read, network, attend external events, remain curious and always be learning, so you become the trusted advisor to other leaders around you.


This article is an extract from our eBook: ‘Steering your leadership teams: A how to guide for HR’ – download the eBook now from here to learn how views on leadership have changed over time and how HR can support leaders to adapt to this. You can also view all our other eBooks available to download here.

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