In my work, I am regularly challenged by leaders underestimating the power of Human Resources (HR). The HR leader and its organization can either help you as a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) become a leader, or a lagger.
Collaboratively Creating Value
Incoming leaders are wise to invest in the relationship with the HR leader by spending quality dialogue time together. As CEO you want to carefully present your values, mission, vision and short- and medium-term goals and the mandate given to you by the governance board. You also like to learn about the HR leader and its organization, and welcome a strategic view, one which goes beyond personnel records and fringe benefits. Also, as an incoming leader you are advised to meet with every one who touches the talent acquisition chain of events.
You need to address and review how the existing organization has been staffed. How does the organization comply with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations?
Discuss and explain why you want transparency and full disclosure on all existing and future issues. You want the organization to be ethical (100% of the time), compliant (100% of the time) and have systems in place protecting the company and its workforce, such as;
- A professional and properly documented background check of all people in the organization, including contractors and “1099” contractors. If not available, require for a reputable outside firm to handle this and complete soon.
- Require independent review of a random and representative sample size of employee records. You like to include for example, how a file is structured, what is filed where and by whom and who has access? If you have drug and alcohol screening as part of the hiring process (highly recommended!), require for example a report on how the data is managed and what experiences the companies has to date.
- A proper ethics and compliance program. If not in place, discuss this at an upcoming board meeting and suggest proper organization and staffing of this function. Remind the board about its shared accountability and the potential liability of not handling ethics and compliance properly.
As an incoming leader, do these ‘minimal checks’ shortly after arrival in the company, so you are informed and accountable.
Independence is Key
Require a direct organizational and hierarchical reporting relationship and communication line with HR leadership. You can let the HR leader act with independence and be in full control, yet you have influence where appropriate. You show support to innovative, positive and business constructive HR activities, in line with the companies mission and vision, strategic goals and unambiguous and accessible to every one.
Professionals Create a Professional Environment
Ensure well qualified and trained professionals and people who fit the organizational culture are active in HR and will be considered for future roles. You assure the HR organization is staffed and managed with professionalism and integrity. You lead and further build a sustainable, credible and trustworthy organization, a place where people like to work.
Although professional training may not be seen as a guarantee for success by some, from personal experience I can share that hiring the alternative is often counter productive to success. A lack of professional standard in HR may over time become a liability to you and the organization.
Focus Magnifies Results
Nowadays, HR leadership often includes oversight of many functional areas. Many of these functional areas are specialized functions and may not be considered directly related to HR’s core activity. Some may lead to potential conflict of interest. I suggest to avoid this pitfall by envisioning and collaboratively creating a focused and functional HR organization. You like to create a focused HR team that for example;
- Continuously monitor the labor market for workplace trends
- Adaptation of candidate sourcing styles based upon need and market trends
- Establish vision and supports hiring the best person for the role at the best cost with the shortest lead time
- Develop alignment of the human capital planning with strategic goals
- Create metrics that clearly define contributions to organizational goals
- Continuously build on the need for increased transparency and a reduction of bureaucracy within the organization
- Constructively collaborate with colleagues, suppliers, partner organizations and the market
You require a HR leader with focus to add measurable value to the executive leadership team. You ask for an innovator, a visionary leader with business and people representation, direct and extended community focus and the right balance of advocacy and inquiry. An executive, a colleague, able to support you in an evolving organization and market.
HR is part of your every day accountabilities and your decision to take this seriously, may soon result in, what some times is referred to as “defining leadership moments”.
In part two of this article, I will provide additional suggestions on how you and the HR leader can creatively collaborate building success.
This article was originally published in Leadership Matters on October 9, 2009.