Why HR and the CEO Should Be Joined at the Hip
The day the Jacobs Suchard (now part of Kraft Foods) Board of Directors promoted me to the corner office, they strongly suggested I align myself with the CFO. The advice proved excellent, and for the rest of my days in the corner office I was joined at the hip by an outstanding finance executive who is now the CFO of Lindt & Sprüngli, the world’s leading chocolatier.
My regret is that I did not free up my other hip for Human Resources, a small team of eager young managers at the rear of the functional pecking order.
Now I must admit that my Jacobs Suchard alumni would be the first to point out that marketing occupied that prime piece of pelvic real estate. After all, I had come up the corporate ladder through the marketing ranks. Yes, we were a marketing-driven company and yes, my mind was consumed with marketing and strategy; but, it wasn’t marketing wizardry alone that made the organization sing.
The exquisite and enthusiastic melodic rhapsody was performed by the entire orchestra. In the background, my Glee Club (HR) made culture their top strategic priority. You see, the “talk” of cultural strategy (at the time, we called it the credo) that hung on the walls of the offices and the factories was “walked” by the leadership team.
Ultimately, it is the CEO who determines the corporate culture, whether it is good or bad. During my tenure, I was extremely competitive, action-oriented and results-driven. So is it any wonder that my employees held the same values?
I’ll explain the cohesion this way: Firstly, our cultural characteristics were monitored and measured. Secondly, we recruited for the right fit, the right cultural mindset, followed by skills. Thirdly, we understood and appreciated the fact that our superior financial results were the result of this modus operandi.
Could I have done more if HR had been attached to that other hip? There’s no doubt.
Ultimately, it is the CEO who determines the corporate culture, whether it is good or bad.
Today, with declining loyalty and greater job hopping, it is critical that CEOs partner with HR. Here are four good reasons why:
HR’s Most Important Role Is to Influence the CEO on the Corporate Culture
This is especially important in ‘revolving door’ environments where global companies make a habit of inserting up-and-comers into general management roles in foreign lands and/or smaller business units.
An Adept HR Executive Is the CEO’s Window
HR can be an excellent radar screen for ‘reading the tea leaves’ amongst the work force with regard to organizational health. The individual should be on top of changes to business plans and how they are being accepted. Key to success is the HR executive’s ability to instill trust at all levels.
Today, with declining loyalty and greater job hopping, it is critical that CEOs partner with HR.
The ‘window’ begins to close when the Human Resources department becomes cops. CEOs must watch for that.
HR Ensures an Effective System to Pinpoint High-potential Talent and Probable Successors
This brings me back to culture and this is why Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart are very good succession planners. By the time an executive rises to the top, he or she will have spent several years within the organization. The CEO designate will be a ‘believer’ in the culture that makes their company great.
A strategic HR Team Can Be Instrumental in Helping a CEO Realize a Leader’s Greatest Sense of Gratification
A CEO should be encouraging, nurturing and allowing human beings to reach their full potential, both personally and professionally.
Take a look at the perennial success companies. Often, they have a ‘way’ . . . a distinctive culture that works for them. The custodian of the ‘way’ is the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Human Resources Officer. It is time to use the HR group strategically and bring their leader into the board room.
The only person who can do that is the CEO.
Art by: phoeniX252