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CEOs Want Their Chief Human Resources Officer to Be a People Leader

A few months ago, I shared my thoughts on “What Companies Look for from the Human Resources Function.” When digging deeper into this subject, I am often asked what specific role CEOs want their Chief Human Resources Officer to play in the organization. Among other things, one key role CEOs often desire their Chief Human Resources Officer to be is a “People Leader” across the entire business.

A CEO who understands what a “best practices” Human Resources organization looks like has the expectation that the CHRO is an expert in running the HR department in its entirety, both the functional process and people management. Just as a Sales leader is expected to deliver on strategies that generate revenue or a CTO to deliver on strategies to give the business a technology-driven competitive edge, the Chief Human Resources Officer must deliver on strategies that optimize the business’s human capital. They are tasked with providing the strategic direction about the people elements of the business to the senior management team, allowing the CEO to focus attention on other areas of the business.

Most CEOs recognize how critical the significance of both people and organizational structure are to achieving business objectives. These CEOs will want the Chief Human Resources Officer to shape the management team’s view on people and organizational structure so all are aligned on this key aspect of the business. Regardless of the degree to which the leadership team is seeking people or organizational structure advice, a strong Chief Human Resources Officer ensures that these components remain consistent and central to the business strategy.

Part of this responsibility is to ensure that the leadership team takes ownership in an appropriate and effective manner in managing human capital and organizational structure in their respective areas and not viewing these issues as something for the Human Resources department to deal with. A CEO recently said it best: “What I want [the CHRO] to do is to sit on [the leadership team’s] shoulders and influence them to change their outlook on their people and work with them to continuously raise the bar on performance.”

Being a People Leader is one of a few key components that CEOs expect from their Chief Human Resources Officer. Likewise, Human Resources leaders must recognize their obligation to move beyond simply leading the HR department to having the business acumen to lead human capital strategy across the entire organization.