If you are a CEO, president, or member of a senior management team, you may occasionally question the value and contributions of your HR department: “I know HR is important, but I really don’t know what they do or should be doing in terms of adding value to the business” or “How would I know the difference between a well-intentioned HR practitioner and an HR strategist who has the skills and abilities to help us improve leadership effectiveness and business performance?”
If you are a senior HR professional, you may be struggling to establish credibility and expand your influence with the CEO/president and senior management team. You may also find yourself spending too much time on tactical versus strategic activities: “Sure, working smarter sounds good, but how do I accomplish this with limited staff and time and other resource constraints?”
The bad news is that in either scenario, a significant gap exists between the needs of the business and potential contributions of HR professionals in many organizations.
The good news is that the gap represents an opportunity, and here’s why. During research conducted by McKinsey and Company, corporate officers (CEOs/presidents and their direct reports) were asked, “Do you believe that HR could be a high-impact business partner?” Eighty percent of the corporate officers said it was critical or very important that HR be in that role. However, only 12% believed they were actually playing that role within their respective organizations. The same group of corporate officers suggested that each division and major location should have a “superb HR professional who is strategic, impact-oriented, direct, tough-minded, and effective at influencing peers and senior management.” They also suggested that strategically focused HR professionals must:
- Help forge the link between business strategy and talent development.
Only 7% of the officers agreed that their companies link business
strategy to specific talent pool requirements.
- Serve as the thought leader in understanding what it takes to
attract talent or be the barometer of the organization, understanding
morale, recruiting and retention trends, as well as other key
- Facilitate the talent review process and action plans by having
a nose for weak spots (people, structures, systems, processes,
culture, etc.) and being proactive in pushing senior leadership
to deal proactively with those weak spots.
- Become the architect of the development strategy for the top-tier
senior leadership group. This requires good assessment and listening
skills, candor and insight.
Why does this gap exist?
- The majority of HR professionals currently function in administrative
roles such as employee relations, recruitment, employment, compensation,
benefits, workers’ compensation, health and safety, and security,
among many other activities. While these are important functions,
they can easily occupy the majority of HR professionals’ time
and resources. Thus, the higher value-added initiatives may not
receive adequate time and attention.
- The majority of HR professionals are hard-working and dedicated
individuals who often feel overwhelmed with their administrative
and largely tactical and reactionary workloads.
- The majority of HR professionals desire more credibility and
influence with the CEO/president and senior management team but
are seldom regarded as strategic business partners.
- The majority of HR professionals are unaware of a major paradigm
shift that is occurring in their profession and the risk to their
- The CEO/president and senior management team are unaware of
the potential contributions of the competent and strategic-oriented
The future role of HR depends on closing the gaps with the CEO, president, and senior management team. If you are interested in learning more about how to close these gaps and improve HR’s contributions to leadership performance, organizational effectiveness and business results.