INSEAD Participant Interview

Translating the language of business: How Business Strategy for HR Leaders transforms understanding

Monika Chajdacka

HR Director at Capgemini, Poland.

"I hoped I would gain a better understanding of business strategy and my role within it as an HR manager. But the programme gave me so much more than that. I am overwhelmed by the sheer dimensions of the knowledge I’ve gained to be honest." says Monika Chajdacka, past participant of Business Strategy for HR Leaders.

Monika, please tell us about your professional background and career path to now.

I’ve been professionally active for more than 20 years. I started in sales and sales training before moving into human resources about 10 years ago. In HR, I am a generalist – I don’t have a narrow specialism or focus. This means I interact with a wide range of business partners. Because of this, something I noticed early on was a kind of disconnect between the way that HR speaks and how business communicates. It’s as though HR and business speak two different languages. And over time this has become something of a personal career mission for me: to bring these two languages together and have HR and business communicate on the same wavelength.

So for you a major challenge as an HR leader is to communicate effectively with other parts of a business?

Yes. If you’re dealing with production or sales or marketing, you’re going to come across major roadblocks if you don’t share a common language. In HR you’re spending time and resources creating processes, but you have to get your business to buy into these processes – and to finance them. So if you can’t translate their value in a way that business can understand, you have a problem. For me, the issue was understanding what business wants and what it was telling me, in order to bridge this divide. 

And this is what brought you to INSEAD?

Yes. I was looking for a programme that would teach me about business. I’d admired INSEAD for a long time for its academic excellence, its diversity and its reputation as Europe’s foremost business school. The choice of school was a no-brainer, to be frank.  

And what about the BSHR programme? What were your expectations of the programme?

I hoped I would gain a better understanding of business strategy and my role within it as an HR manager. But the programme gave me so much more than that. I am overwhelmed by the sheer dimensions of the knowledge I’ve gained to be honest. Perhaps the core and most transformational piece for me is the understanding that HR is the absolute hub of any organisation, influencing everything from labour to capital. This was something that we explored right from day one and it completely changed my thinking – including the idea that we, as HR managers, need to step up to this responsibility and have the confidence and commitment to embrace it fully.

What about the teaching?

Professor Philip Parker teaches BSHR and he is exceptional. There was plenty I struggled to understand going into the programme, but Professor Parker was able to elucidate even the most complex concepts, using vivid examples to translate business models and different types of analysis, and what you get out of each. It was utterly fascinating. In class he would use stories and analogies to exemplify these core ideas so creatively that you would spend hours with your brain feeling like it was smoking, but not wanting it to stop. It felt like food for the brain.

And do you feel that you’ve achieved your goal of mastering the “language of business?”

Yes, I do. For instance, in HR there’s a prevalent mindset that the goal is to empower employees; that the prime objective is to engage and retain your talent. But what happens when you need to talk to the board? I’ve learnt that it’s the function of an HR leader to engage and empower the business too. When you’re talking to the CFO, you need to be able to communicate how employee empowerment translates into a reduction of fixed costs. So yes, it’s about keeping staff happy. But it’s about keeping the business happy too. And this is another major takeaway from BSHR. I’ve gained the ability to see things from multiple perspectives. I’ve acquired a broadened and comprehensive understanding of the needs and objectives of my diverse business partners. 

So you’re actively applying what you’ve learnt on BSHR?

I’ve used the resources I’ve gained from the programme in all kinds of ways, from things like ensuring that I speak to a diversity of stakeholders to understand what they want, to concrete actions like using charts to map out of competitor landscape when we’re launching new initiatives. Thanks to the programme, I’m also able to deploy the language of marketing strategy to spell out different objectives, prospective gains and challenges. BSHR has given me the strategic mindset, the tools and the confidence to persuade and influence my business partners more effectively.

Would you recommend BSHR to a colleague? And if so, what advice would you share?

I would recommend the programme without a doubt. It is a truly unique offering in that it brings these two dimensions fully together – the business and HR dynamics – in such a way that it fully changes your understanding and your skillset. And at INSEAD you’re also going to experience a great deal of hospitality and support from the programme directors and your cohort of fellow students. 

The only advice I would share with prospective students is this: get plenty of sleep before you start. You’re going to acquire an immense amount of knowledge and you need to be at your best to process it all and get the very most out of it. If you’re being taught by Professor Parker, you don’t want to miss a word. 

Find out more about the Business Strategy for HR Leaders programme, and how you can master the language of business.

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