The head of HR is frequently, at least in the CEO’s eyes, seen as the low man (or woman) on the executive totem pole. This occurs despite the fact that people are the biggest item on almost every company’s budget, and that CEOs consistently list talent as a top concern.
Yet, rather than being seen as a strategically valuable, business-oriented leader, the head of HR is often regarded instead as administration- and compliance-focused.
How can HR leaders reverse this image and make themselves invaluable to the CEO and the business? Here are four ways:
1. Match talent resources with company strategy.
The ability to counsel the CEO in strategic planning and resource allocation is critical to HR’s role in modern business. CEOs want an HR executive who understands where the company wants to go and what talent resources are required to get there quickly. And every group wants as many people as they can get to do the work.
The CEO needs help to determine the right number of resources in every area to execute on the strategy and maintain balance across the organization. Small changes in the number of people in an organization can change a loss into a profit, or vice versa. The head of HR can provide the data and counsel to make the organization as efficient as possible.
2. Help attract the best and brightest.
CEOs want the HR department to proactively help find and hire industry stars — not just put up job posts when a vacancy occurs. Filling empty positions is not enough to be successful. A true HR leader must help market the company in a way that attracts the best talent in the industry. Recruiting is a continuous sales process, and top-notch HR leaders will embrace it and add tremendous value.
3. Deliver excellence in the onboarding process.
HR leaders should drive good management practices by applying the mantra, “Don’t micromanage, but do micro-train.” Too many companies hire good people only to let them flounder once they come onboard. Then they’re disappointed when the new employee doesn’t contribute quickly.
HR can end this harmful dynamic by owning the onboarding process. Quality onboarding includes making the new hire aware of company history and general industry knowledge and having him or her attend meetings with key executives, in addition to the obvious job-specific training.
These actions have multiple benefits such as driving high performance, creating a common language across the company and building a strong culture through shared experiences.
4. Focus on employee engagement.
Most companies don’t measure employee engagement, much less manage it. This is yet another area where the HR executive can and should take the lead. He or she can:
measure engagement through tools such as Gallup’s Q12 survey.
take action on issues surfaced.
support the entire management chain in efforts to engage employees.
It’s especially critical for HR to coach and give feedback to first-line managers, many of whom aren’t well trained and lack skills that are critical to keeping employees engaged and motivated.
These are just four of many areas where a strong HR leader can provide real business value and reclaim his or her rightful position as a vital advisor to the CEO. Of course, the CEO should also be a champion of the HR function and willing to take an active role in all these areas.
Choosing to work for this type of CEO is the first step toward success for an HR leader.