HR leaders have a “great opportunity”, but also a duty, to increase their influence in their organisations, according to thought leader Mark Hodgson.

In a VUCA world, one of the key ways organisations maintain competitive advantage is through their people, says Hodgson, who is head of consulting at the About my Brain Institute.

But senior leaders in organisations don’t necessarily understand HR and the “power of getting great people and culture”.

HR leaders have also been “a bit backward in coming forward in staking their claim as main drivers of the business”.

Many HR leaders don’t have a seat at the executive table; “they’re half a rung down from that”, and they aren’t seen as core business drivers, Hodgson says.

“I think that’s wrong, and that’s the shift that businesses need to make in terms of really getting the best out of their people.

“It’s the opportunity for HR leaders to step up and do that. They really need to start to think more actively about developing their thought leadership, [and] their personal branding internally within the organisation and externally to the market at a broader level.”

Two ways to build a personal brand

A key element in building a personal brand is “always looking forward” and understanding where the organisation wants to be in several years’ time, Hodgson says.

HR professionals should also know where their sector is heading, how talent is changing, and what is happening in the world of work generally. This puts them in a prime position to have an opinion on the people and cultural strategies the organisation needs in the future, and to ensure these are implemented.

The second key element is voicing this opinion, Hodgson says.

“It’s about having an active point of view about how to get to the best future,” he says.

HR leaders are often seen as “quite reactive”, and shouldn’t just receive information, but express their point of view by, for example, publishing their opinions online, speaking at HR events, writing whitepapers or even writing a book.

They should be open about what they think and how their organisations are approaching these issues, Hodgson notes.

“This makes HR proactive. A HR leader who builds their brand and does it very well in the sense I’m talking about is really well placed to attract new people and new business because they show confidence,” he says.

“By building their own profile, at the same time it’s building their organisation’s profile. It actually not only positions them as thought leaders, it also positions the organisation they work for as a forward-facing, thought-leading organisation.”

The best talent wants to work for organisations where employees and leaders are “progressing the argument, doing good work, moving into the future and seen as innovative”, Hodgson says.

If HR professionals actively express their opinion about the world of work, the best talent will therefore be attracted to their organisations, he says.