What CEOs Want from HR
JUDY ENNS, PhD
What CEOs want their human resources experts to do in their organizations and common myths about the HR function in many organizations are as far apart as Tierrasanta and Timbuktu.
By expecting more business acumen than ever from human resources, CEOs have challenged HR leaders to redefine their roles and their contribution to an enterprise. How often is the vice president of human resources involved in discussions of new markets, acquisitions, and shareholder value? Not often enough. Because HR "transactional" areas like benefits, compensation, recruiting and training are increasingly outsourced, the role of senior HR people is evolving. In general, CEOs want HR professionals with enthusiasm for the business, a strong presence among their peers, professional compatibility with top executives, and down-to-earth savvy.
However, some employees still believe that HR is the place to get free therapy, happiness, corporate welfare, and atta-boys. CEOs, on the other hand, expect HR professionals to build organization systems and processes to make the company competitive. They want a balanced report card on how the organization attends to employee satisfaction and retention, as well as what HR is doing to enhance profitability.
Even senior managers sometimes believe HR is a corporate Siberia with no visibility or accountability, and hence run from assignments in the area ? CEOs expect HR leaders to sit at the mahogany table initiating ideas to make companies more productive. They do not want a trendy fad or catchy training program. Furthermore, HR is charged with spotting the next generation of managers and executives throughout the organization.
CEOs want to know who the coming stars are and how they are being developed and retained. Business units expect HR people to staff their areas adroitly with a combination of full-time, part-time and outside help. Finding, keeping, rewarding, and measuring results people produce is a singular criterion of success for some HR managers of business units.
Often HR pros are perceived as only able to deal with the softer side of business because they are diplomatic, typically positive in outlook and gracious. Others are mocked as the "people police" who demand proper paper processes.
The CEO, by contrast, requires an advisor who tells him or her what the key people issues are, and who rigorously influences him or her about solutions. Sometimes this uncommon role means unfamiliar accountability and risk. The CEO, however, needs HR to add value to every function in the company, rather than merely define itself by reducing head count.
In response to customer expectations, the pace of change, employee demographics, the need to hold on to intellectual capital and support global human resources needs, HR professionals have a definitive strategic role, have gained more attention, been asked to do more, and are partnering with management to frame competitive strategies.
To mast that role, Wayne K., a vice president of HR, offers this advice: • Know not just what the company does, but how it does it. • Observe how colleagues in other departments report their performance. • Strive to quantify all facets of HR to determine what works and what doesn't.
Outcomes CEOs expect are a well-executed HR strategy, an efficient corporate infrastructure, an increase in employee commitment and capability, and organizational renewal. To successfully deliver on these goods, HR is advised to know the CEO well and jump over obstacles to get the resources they need to solve their company problems.
To have full credibility HR initiatives are a collaboration with senior executives enlisted as sponsors, putting their influence behind the initiatives.
CEOs and other executives need credible HR partners who know the dynamic intersection of business results, customer expectations and people performance.
To borrow from an unattributed source, the "real" HR professional has this profile: - The brains of Einstein. - The charisma of Kennedy. - The negotiating skills of Kissinger. - The marketing skills of Iacocca. - The hide of a rhinoceros. - The soul of Mother Teresa. - The stamina of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
HR professionals can either slouch as we begin this millennium or join their successful colleagues to shed the myths and confidently line up with the best and the brightest corporate leaders.