HR professionals: get financially savvy to get ahead

We all know that HR directors in the C-Suite need to have the ear of the CFO – but just how much financial knowledge do HR practitioners really need to succeed in today’s HR landscape?

Knowing your way around your company’s finances is becoming more and more important in today’s management teams, so if you want to operate at the top levels in HR, you’d best make friends with the balance sheets.
HRIS software company PayGlobal’s Australian practice manager Jo Tozer says that a good grasp of how a company’s finances work is crucial and senior HR executives need to be “both commercially savvy and strategically focused”.  
Tozer, who studied strategic HR as part of her MBA, says, “One of the key areas that HR professionals struggle with is to demonstrate their worth to the business as it relates to the top and bottom line. The biggest hurdle to this is the fundamental and natural difference between the CFO and GMHR’s perspective – a wide gap in thinking generally exists - and the reality in most cases is that the CFO holds greater clout in the business. The most successful HR professionals are the ones who are able to sit at the executive table and contribute commercially. They can only do this if they are able to understand the people and the dollars, and can partner with the CFO.”
Charles Sturt University’s faculty of business course director, Dr Lan Snell, says there’s been a trend towards looking at financially-based subjects among students doing their masters degree in HR.
“We’ve seen increased enrolments into the masters program, and that is not just by HR practitioners themselves but people from other disciplines wanting to develop a career in HR. When we look at the electives and the majors they’re pursuing, one of them is within something called business partnerships, which includes subjects that traditionally come from the accounting and finance disciplines - for example, business accounting and finance is one of the subjects there, as is business economics and macro-economics. I can say there’s been a trend at looking at those areas of specialization.”
She says that from a broader perspective, there’s been greater importance placed on professionalizing the HR sector, with greater numbers of practitioners belonging to national associations and pursuing tertiary education. 

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