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the HR evolution: the rise of HR in strategic importance

What comes to your mind when you think about Human Resources (HR)? 

Let’s take a look at the Google search results. If you type in ‘HR is’ the first results that come up are: ‘HR is not your friend’, ‘HR is about to fire you’ (Google, 2024). Unfortunately, not really surprising in a time when layoffs are reported almost weekly in the tech sector and videos of impersonal terminations are being shared on Tiktok. In this opinion piece, Rabea Thies, VP of People & Operations at Meister, challenges those common misconceptions, presenting a compelling case for the pivotal role of HR in driving meaningful organizational transformation through strategic commitment.

Rabea Ties about HR & People & Culture at Meister
Rabea Ties about HR & People & Culture at Meister

ℹ️ about Rabea Thies

Rabea Thies, VP of People & Operations at Meister and Certified Psychological Coach, embodies a passions for people that drives her professional journey. With a background in both business and psychology, she thrives on understanding and enhancing the human experience within organizations.

Responsible for steering the People & Culture department, communication, leadership development and company-wide planning, Rabea's approach goes beyond the traditional HR playbook. With a passion for understanding people deeply, she's dedicated to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment where people can thrive.

When she's not in the office, you'll find Rabea enjoying Vienna's culture and coffee, travelling or getting her hands dirty with pottery, the perfect balance to work. 

the status quo of HR in today’s world of work

Over the past years, the field of HR has (luckily and rightfully so!) more and more developed into the field of People & Culture (P&C), emphasizing the strategic significance of people and culture management beyond the traditional administrative role. This shift highlights the importance of mental health, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, transforming HR leaders into trust-builders within organizations.

The 2021 EY Nordic HR Survey confirms that they have seen a shift from topics such as cost reduction, service and process optimization and cross-functional integration to an increased attention on ensuring world-class employee experiences: 

  • continuous learning

  • diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging

  • talent attraction

  • talent retention in hyper-competitive markets

  • driving cultural transformation

  • taking a central role in driving the ESG agenda.

At Meister, People & Culture has always been integrated into the management team and we've witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of that approach. With 62.5% of our management team and 42% of our leadership positions held by women, our commitment to diversity and inclusion is an established reality, not just an objective. Yet, despite progress within our own organization, challenges persist in the broader landscape of HR leadership, particularly for women. 

Rabea Ties about HR & People & Culture at Meister
female representation at Meister

Statistics reveal a promising trend: while women in tech companies continue to face barriers in reaching the C-suite, they are more likely to hold leadership positions within P&C departments. The 2022 Trends Report by the Talent Strategy Group highlights that 70% of appointed CHROs/CPOs in Fortune 200 companies identify as female, underscoring the growing prominence of women in HR leadership roles.

barriers for female leaders in people & culture 

Despite the increasing representation of women in P&C leadership, significant barriers remain. In conversations with counterparts from other scale-ups and startups, a common refrain echoes: teams feel under-resourced and lack representation within the management team. It's like a cycle: one problem feeds into the other, making it even harder to drive change.

For me, personally, I've been fortunate to work alongside CEOs who recognize the pivotal role of P&C in organizational success. Being part of Meister's management team has enabled my team to champion initiatives that prioritize people and culture. However, as management changes and new leaders join the team, I've come to realize that it's not just luck but the collective impact of our team's efforts that drives change. Convincing leaders from different backgrounds about the value of P&C takes time, but witnessing the shift in mindset reinforces my belief in the importance of advocacy and perseverance.

While it would be ideal for all CEOs and founders to fully understand the importance of P&C and allocate sufficient resources to it, it is on us as HR professionals to advocate on behalf of our teams, employees, and ultimately, the company's success.

So, what can you do? 

actionable strategies I have found helpful in my team:

  1. build your business acumen. To be a true ‘Business Partner’ for your organizations’ leaders, you need to understand their challenges and how their success is being measured. It will help you in all HR processes: recruiting the right talent, tailoring training to the capabilities required as well as understanding how to best measure performance in the team.

  2. develop data literacy: Data tells a much more compelling story than just words. Launch employee engagement surveys and discuss the results and goals with the respective leaders, analyse your recruiting pipeline to detect where you are losing out on candidates and diversity, set intentional goals for what you want to achieve and measure against them.

  3. people strategy as extension of the business strategy: Build connections between your organisations’ top goals and your HR goals: what can you in your function do to bring the team forward? In some cases, the answer might be to prioritise certain positions within recruiting, in others it could be to set up a training journey to foster the skills needed to move a goal. Be curious and learn as much as possible about other areas of the business to be able to connect your work with your company’s mission.

  4. leverage best practices: Draw inspiration from diverse fields. We are confronted with an ever changing dynamic, which makes it even more important to be able to adapt quickly. The good news is: you don’t need to reinvent the wheel all the time and there is more inspiration than just the HR field. Be it iterative design or user stories in product that can be transferred to any learning & development initiative, service level agreements for your people ops functions or sales metrics to your talent acquisition practices. Speaking the same language makes it much easier for the rest of the company to relate with your department and the work you do.

  5. embrace automation: Feel like you don’t have enough time? Take a look at your processes, how many are automated? How many are too lengthy? Streamline administrative tasks to free up time for strategic initiatives and human-centric activities. Particularly in 2024, there is no way around Generative AI in HR anymore.

  6. cultivate listening and coaching skills: While you may not always possess expertise in every area, as an HR professional, you're adept at active listening and inquiry. Develop your coaching skills to pose insightful questions that guide your counterparts in resolving challenges. By providing support without necessarily having all the answers, you can effectively empower others to find solutions.

  7. expand your network: Particularly in HR it can sometimes get lonely, you deal with highly confidential and sensitive topics daily, making it more difficult to discuss your thoughts and topics with others within the business. Connect with peers and industry leaders to share insights, gain inspiration, and navigate the challenges of HR leadership. 

Whether you're new to HR or a seasoned leader, I hope these strategies offer a roadmap for driving impactful change and advancing the strategic role of P&C within organizations.

ℹ️ about Meister:

Meister makes stunningly-designed, team-focused and user-friendly software that brings joy to work and simplicity to collaboration. Our users, products and team all work beautifully together.

The Meister Suite is a collection of intuitive productivity tools that teams simply love to use. Meister’s product portfolio includes MindMeister and MeisterTask. These smart and intuitive apps – for web and mobile – help teams of all sizes achieve seamless, end-to-end workflow management. With award-winning tools for mind mapping, task management and online documentation, connected by flawless integrations, the path from idea to reality has never been clearer. 

The ambitious, well-funded company has the potential to drive innovation on the market. To achieve their goals, Meister is always searching for talented, creative individuals to join their growing international company. Join the team. Write the story. 


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