September 25, 2012
Human Resources

HR Doesn’t Need a Seat at the Table, it is the Table

Interestingly, I recently learned that the term ‘stakeholder‘ was coined at Stanford Research Institute in 1963 to describe ‘those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist‘.

I then started thinking about the term ‘table stakes‘, which lead me to Wikipedia. Table stakes:

… refers to the minimum entry requirement for a market or business arrangement. It can refer to pricing, cost models, technology, or other capability that represents a minimum requirement to have a credible competitive starting position in a market or other business arrangement.

HR is both table stakes and a stakeholder for an organization.

It gets an unbelievably bad rap in some circles, but these days, I don’t believe it’s about HR needing a seat at the table. In fact, I believe they are the table.

Of course, if HR begins to play offence, takes the bull by the horns, and enacts a human capital strategy that provides a more cohesive way in which employees can more efficiently do their job, then yes … it makes sense. If HR remains passive, plays defence and simply takes marching orders from elsewhere, then no … it cannot and will never be both.

To be the ‘table’ of the organization, HR needs to provide a solid foundation that connects people to people and people to projects, ideas and information. It needs to make it easier for employees to do their job. When you sit at a table with other people, you naturally feel connected. It’s a table and you’re sharing. It could be that you’re simply sharing the space, but nonetheless, you’re sharing.

A table connects people. It can permit ideas to surface. It bridges distance. It acts as a solidifying force. It shares a meal.

It’s easy.

HR should be the table of the organization.

Recent acquisitions and a seismic shift in the HR technology space only underlines what is in motion. The big guns like IBM, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce realized HR’s opportunity to become a true stakeholder when they began gobbling up companies such as Kenexa, Taleo, SuccessFactors and Rypple. They saw it as table stakes.

For it to be a stakeholder in the organization — to truly become the force that connects its employees and makes work-life more efficient and productive — it needs to stop thinking a seat at the table is the ultimate win.

It’s now time for HR to actually be the table. It’s table stakes for the organization of tomorrow.


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