If you work as a manager in an organization large enough to have dedicated human resources and finance functions, you will be well served to cultivate strong working relationships with the professionals on those teams.
While building strong relationships with all of your peers across functions is a good practice, these particular groups can be some of your best advocates and allies in challenging situations. It pays to know just a bit about what makes these professionals tick.
Here are a few approaches that will help you foster and strengthen these important relationships as you climb the corporate ladder.
Reach Out and Offer Information
Take time to sit down with your primary contacts on these teams and share information about your group's mission and challenges. Be certain to ask the same about their focus and primary goals as a group.
If you are a new manager, this is a great excuse to meet with your representatives from these teams and ask for their insights on their dealings with your group in the past. Ask for areas where they would like to see improvement. And then do something about it.
Share Feedback From the Market
If you operate in a customer-facing group such as sales, marketing, or customer support, extend invitations to your human resources or finance contacts to meetings where the focus is on sharing information about customers, competitors, and partners.
Do not discount how important this is to people operating at least one degree of separation from the action in the market. While everyone recognizes the company’s need to acquire and keep customers, for many who labor in internal-facing groups, the realities of the marketplace are not tangible. They will appreciate your efforts to help them bridge this knowledge gap.
Promote Strategic Involvement
Both human resources and finance should have a seat at the table when it comes to the work of planning for the future, yet in some firms, they are not directly involved in these important discussions.
To the extent that you can influence this issue, strive to involve these teams in the work of strategy. After all, this effort is about engaging and focusing talent on opportunities to drive numbers. The individuals in these groups are ultimately critical cogs in strategy execution efforts.
Avoid Gaming the Numbers
Depending upon your role, you will either work with finance on revenue and expenses or just expenses. For sales managers, finance gets the first and last vote on revenue recognition policies and decisions, so do not attempt to game the system.
Be completely transparent with your team’s numbers and avoid any hint of gamesmanship. If you manage a cost center, be diligent about managing and forecasting your costs and bring potential problems to the attention of finance immediately. If and when future problematic situations arise, your history of forthright behavior will buy you a bit of extra help when you need it.
Create Positive Challenges
Everyone loves a positive challenge. Setting aside the benefits management side of human resources, your primary work with them will focus on finding talent and resolving problems with the talent on the team. Both are mission-critical to your success and survival as a manager.
Many of your hiring situations might be out of the ordinary as you invest in new markets and pursue people with skills and experiences new to your culture. Your ability to work with human resources and tailor job requirements and search specifications will prove critical time and again in important recruiting activities.
Seek Guidance Early on Problems
Run, do not walk, to offer an early warning and seek guidance on problems. The problem situations are inevitable and the stakes for organizations and careers are high when it comes to people issues.
In many instances, your human resources contacts will offer guidance on how to navigate a difficult situation and maintain corporate compliance. And if things go bad, they are the ones invited to facilitate cleaning up your mess. You will be glad you involved them early.
Partner on the Big Projects
As you rise through the ranks, you will grow more dependent upon these teams to help you with large-scale initiatives. For example, in a particularly complex and fast-moving company restructuring process, the finance department can help evaluate investment options and build forecast models.
Their work could wind up being the instrumental piece required to gain board of directors approval for restructuring plans. Human resources can bring a restructuring plan to life, help evaluate and develop new compensation packages, and enable critical hiring activities as well as strategize about any position eliminations.
Help Them Achieve Their Goals
Tune in to these groups' unique functional goals and support their efforts. Your willingness to provide resources for an important project or to pilot a new process or policy will be appreciated and remembered.
The Bottom Line
It is easy to view the shared services functions of human resources and the finance group as just part of the company's operational process. In reality, finance and human resources, in particular, enable you to understand your business, invest for the future, and manage and develop the talent needed to succeed. Build strong relationships with every group in your firm, however, a little bit of extra effort with these two teams will pay dividends.