HR folks just don’t get it and it’s getting old!

I have recently been speaking to CEO’s and this is what they want! (And it’s rare that they get it).

  1. HR folks who understand the business.
  2. HR folks who understand what the needs of their customers really are.
  3. HR folks who have run parts of business and therefore have credibility when giving advice to line managers.
  4. HR folks who “feel” the economics of their business environment and act and think like a CEO.
  5. HR folks who are not all about policies and procedures and are about developing a motivational culture and inclusiveness.
  6. HR folks who know how to develop and grow a business.
  7. HR Folks who know it’s about business, marketplace, community and product/service strategy. (Internal and external factors).


So it’s not about focusing on administration or benefits or hiring the right people!

These are givens, part of our toolkit. It’s like saying to a CFO “lets balance the books.”!!

HR is about creating, developing and implementing business solutions that increase bottom line profitability AND sustained performance.

Its getting old! We need to understand that we are Business first and Business last, that way we really are taking care of our employees and not always concentrating on cost reductions.


So lets stop talking about being business partners and start thinking business.


Understand that growing a business also grows the people.


Oh, and finally if HR doesn’t get it don’t expect anyone else!

“From small acorns do great Oak trees grow” Old saying

Picture of English Oak tree photo by John Elliott – Trees in an English Landscape

About HRMexplorer

Managing Director - Human Capital Europe and USA - My ability is to recognize ingrained assumptions and patterns of operation that aren’t productive, and offer practical, cost-effective and value-based solutions.

Posted on November 21, 2010, in HRMexplorer Blogs. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I think it would probably be intresting to not have a ‘seat at the table’ and get on with doing what needs doing. Eventually someone at the ‘table’ might start to say, “hey you need a seat at the table” to which you could asnwer, “Nah, I’m right thanks” 🙂

  2. Please, isn’t this just more of the same dribble we see as part of HR’s ongoing “identity crisis”?

    Simply substitute ANY department in your organization with the words “HR folks” in the above list and you will quickly see that these “CEO wants” can apply to every department in most any organization.

    It’s nice to say that HR is about “creating, developing and implementing business solutions…” but let me ask you, which area of an organization does this not apply to

    So please, enough with stating the obvious. Monday morning is coming and there is real work to do.

  3. I’ve spend decades working with over a hundred organizations. The common complaint from HR is they are not given a seat at the strategic table. This is naive in the extreme. The HR role is really part of the leadership role and belongs to the CEO. He’s not going to give this power away. However, with a strong HR leader and a good executive relationship, HR can have profound influence on an organization. Remember, the CEO has many things to occupy his day. He looks to the HR leader for advocacy from the front-line who deal with reality every day, The rest is just admin.

  4. Core problem is that in many companies, the rising cost of benefits has forced HR leads to focus on maintaining (I won’t say decreasing because this is becoming exceedingly difficult to do) the cost structure. Benefit management is very time consuming leaving the HR heads with little time to spend on strategic issues.

    I won’t spend any time on discussing “types” because this topic alone produces far more of an emotional response than it deserves and takes away from the real question – why isn’t HR more strategic?

    For one, ask your CFO or CEO if they would rather (a) run HR or (b) listen to Lindsey Lohan complain about how unfair life can be. We know they’d choose (b). This tells me that the C-level doesn’t understand how much of a balance sheet bonus having a great workforce can produce. Failure of HR #1.

    Two, take a random sample of HR leads and ask them to breakdown their company’s balance sheet using a SWOT model. Doah! Failure of HR #2.

    These add up and the employees notice, the world notices.

    Solution? Outsource the time consuming tactical pieces of HR and insert the best business person possible into the position. This isn’t a new strategy but it is one that over time – after the new executive moves on from HR to another role – they will look back on their experience and incorporate what they learned about managing a workforce into generating more revenues.

    • Thanks Steve, My sentiments exactly. No business has ever cost cut its way to success. Even benefit structures et al can give strategic positioning. Its all about what lens you use to develop the people costs/investments etc. Thanks for your insightful comments.

  5. Great post Peter. The sense of urgency in our leadership as HR professionals should match the sense of urgency the CEO feels to execute the strategic plan. We shouldn’t ask for a seat at the table, we should earn one through our actions.

    • Thanks Jay, There is indeed a sense of urgency that is out there and needs to be “felt” by the HR profession. I like your comment about the chair at the table being “opened” to us.

  6. Therefore I always emphasize “Strategy-focus” although I am one of the HR folks in the eyes of stereotyping.
    Recently I have facilitated a workshop for my client’s strategy mapping in two days. The sponsor had suggested to focus on “Creating a top class workplace” but in the end the team members arrived at “Strengthening team spirit” and “Creating a learning organization” with challenging targets of competency development. (Proving that a workplace more relaxed and comfortable is not their priority)

    Inviting the employees to decide their own fate (ownership of the strategy) will help them think in the shoes of the CEO’s.

    • Thanks Saehi. I am honored that you took the time to give such a considered comment. It is amazing when we allow the inclusiveness of those around us to show us what they really can do.

  7. It’s interesting as I have just finished a two-day workshop for strategy mapping of a client team.The sponsor of this program had asked me to put “Creating a top class workplace” as one of the success factors, which I conveyed to the team in the beginning of the program. However, the result was totally different as they focused on the financial achievement with clear objectives and KPIs. Then they went on to explore the root causes such as customer’s perspectives (Value propositions) and internal process perspectives (Where and How to work better)… to arrive at the key elements of learning & growth perspectives which were “Strengthening team spirit” and “Creating a learning organization”. They created many new ideas to develop their competencies with challenging criteria.

    What I learned is that we have a prejudice thinking “employees want a workplace just more relaxed and comfortable” but when we invite them to decide their own fate (Strategic ownership) they see the reality in the eyes of the CEO’s and become motivated to change themselves. “Strategy-focusing” is so important.

  8. Clearly you have done some good research here. and it’s not difficult to see this in MANY organisations. Usually the HR Dept are Relator types while the CEO’s are more director types, diametrically opposed.

    I can hear the HR team saying, relax more think of the people on the team and how they don’t perform well under pressure… GRRR

    While the CEO’s is thinking… get moving guys, we have a profit to maintain, sales to make and innovative practices to put in place to get us ahead of the competition MOVE! GRRR

    Sometimes the only thing in common is the GRRR!

  9. Excellent post, Explorer! When HR gets it, we don’t just give them a seat at the table. We pull the chair out for them.
    DrJ (CEO, The Gabriel Institute)

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