Memo to Human Resources… from your Chief Executive Officer

I recently moderated a very lively panel with two CEO’s. The topic of discussion is What do CEO’s want from their HR Team? Setting the stage early, I asked what are some non-negotiable qualities CEO’s are looking for in their Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO).

Three themes are worth noting:

1. Show you have a strategy that leverages people strategically to do their best work every day

This is supported every year by the Gallup Q12 EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Survey. HR’s role is to align your policies and programs with those strategic goals which drive growth and engagement. In order to do this, there has to be a deep understanding of the business. A superficial understanding and singular focus on legal compliance and “policing” the organization will diminish your credibility and ability to gain a valuable seat at the C-suite table. To become a true strategic partner requires the CHRO and team to spend time with all executives and leaders. This is the most effective way to build credibility and deepen relationships and strategic alliances. Too often, HR does not take the time to immerse themselves in the core business functions and learning from those whom they serve. First and foremost, HR is a service to the organization, and your task is to champion people above all else.  

2. Think about changing your name from Human Resource to…

You are in the people business, but this isn’t always obvious! Human Resources fails to project the perception the organization values people as their most valuable asset. Can we move from managing people to unleashing people into maximizing their full potential? Without realizing it, HR often operates with a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset. Fixed mindsets fail to foster cultures of innovation, creativity, or responsible failure. Fixed mindsets suggest that people cannot grow, they are lazy and untrustworthy. If you are honest, many of your conversations within your teams do not look at people in a positive or optimistic perspective. Show us CEO’s that you can put people to work to solve their biggest business challenges. So why change your name? You will be in good company with several companies whose most senior HR leader is called Chief People Officer, or SVP of People Operations. Remember, people first!

3. HR leaders must have exemplary emotional intelligence skills.

Those of you who read my posts know this is where I have received my training, and emotional intelligence is a consistent theme. However, this was not my ‘non-negotiable’ quality. Both CEO’s pointed out that the CHRO and team must be able to be effective people leaders, handling interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Emotional intelligence is a set of skills that allows you to develop relationships which are mutually beneficial — “win-win,” vs self-serving relationships, which ultimately hurt organizations. Furthermore, according to Amy Hirsh Robinson, employees expect their Chief People Officers to be authentic, open, and honest. A CPO’s ability to gain the trust of others and consistently act with integrity is a critical success factor.

In conclusion, CEO’s need a true partner who truly cares about people. It may sound simple, but in fact it constitutes a  fundamental shift in thinking. To quote one of our panelists, “We foster a shared belief that our work together is all about the people.”

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