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What Companies Look For from the Human Resources Function

I frequently hear from many Human Resources leaders that CEOs and senior management teams are not interested in the work of HR. Likewise, I hear often from executive leaders, who are not in the HR function, regarding their frustration that HR is too tactically focused and not strategic enough.

As a former Chief Human Resources Officer and now an Executive Search Consultant, I have found that CEOs and senior management teams are looking for the HR function to deliver the core HR processes extremely well. Simply put, they do not care about these processes beyond the fact that the processes are executed efficiently.  Additionally, I have found that Human Resources leaders are attempting to engage the C-Suite around HR processes, despite the fact that those processes are not the focus of what the company is trying to accomplish.

A couple of quotes from a recent survey that speak to this theme are:

“I expect the HR person to make sure the HR function operates effectively. That’s your day job; I won’t delve into it or care about it, I expect it to work.”

“I want to know management aspects work, but I don’t need to know how and where.”

When will CEOs and senior leadership teams care about core HR processes? When they’re broken, that’s when. They expect HR to be moving forward in the background, but they do not want to be bothered by unnecessary detail. If the HR basics are not being done, or doing them is getting in the way of people fulfilling their core roles, then CEOs and senior leadership teams will become interested. This is not the kind of attention HR should want. HR needs to be diligent that its core HR processes are effectively and efficiently supporting the business with administrative simplicity. Some of these core HR process should include:

  • Recruiting talent
  • Onboarding
  • Paying people correctly
  • Retention initiatives
  • People development
  • Succession planning
  • Legal/compliance
  • Administrative simplicity with employee data
  • Performance management
  • Building and nurturing the company culture

As I meet with CEOs, they are looking for HR to have a business acumen. CEOs want HR to support the business in making decisions and managing people. They do not want HR leaders constrained to their office or relying on the annual employee survey. They want HR spending time in the other functional areas of the company, assessing the feelings and the climate of the workforce.

Ultimately, what CEOs and senior leadership teams want from the Human Resources function is for HR to help coordinate the business strategy. They do not want HR executing its processes without the framework of the current business strategy and goals.