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Demonstrating the commerciality of HR: SIGplc's Linda Kennedy McCarthy tells you how


Building relationships, having confidence in your expertise and using data intelligently are all crucial to demonstrating the commerciality of HR, according to SIGplc's group HRD Linda Kennedy McCarthy

“I’m not a big fan of navel gazing,” she said, speaking at the CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition. “We often hear: ‘why do finance get that seat?’ I’m not really interested in that; I’m interested in moving it forwards. Rather than weeping and wailing I’m interested in getting out there and getting that seat.”

McCarthy advised that HR professionals should be spending increasing amounts of time having “coffee chats” with others in the business as they become more senior. "It’s really powerful if you’re in a meeting and say ‘I know you have a problem with that but we can do this to address it,’” she said, adding: “It becomes more and more about having those coffees and getting to know people. Already knowing where people stand when you go into a meeting is a really powerful thing.”

McCarthy also spoke on the power of not just collecting data, but of analysing it intelligently. “If I had a million pounds I wouldn’t invest that in research necessarily but in upskilling my HR team,” she said. “[Effective use of data] is about how HR practitioners translate what we have got into real insights. Data is data at the end of the day, we’ve got five or six buckets of data now in most businesses. The trick is using that data.”

McCarthy added, however, that effective use of data doesn’t have to mean the HR director is an expert here. “You don’t have to have those skills necessarily, you just need to ‘know a man that can’. You need to surround yourself with people who are good at the numbers.”

HR professionals must also be confident in their own skills so that they can move beyond demonstrating these to talking the language of the business. “A really important point is to talk about the why not the what,” said McCarthy. “If you’re an experienced HR professional they [the C-suite] know you know your stuff and that what you’re putting forward is the right technical solution. But why should they be doing [what you’re suggesting]?”

McCarthy also advised her audience to research “wine and nibble” event attendees in a slightly “Machiavellian” way to maximise potential new connections, and to be brave in taking on new personal development challenges. “One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was: move outside of your comfort zone,” she said. “If you’re offered a move across the country for example, I'd say do it.”