Author: Elizabeth D. Fanslow
I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled: People Before Strategy: The New Role for the CHRO. You might be wondering what the new role of the Chief Human Resource Officer would change. Well this article lays out a CHRO who is fully invested in all parts of their company; not just the hiring, firing and benefit processes. Your CHRO is not just about hiring and firing!
Still not sure what that means…let me share a story with you…
This article brought me back to my days when I was the Chief Operating Officer for a credit card company. My title was COO, but I basically acted as the CEO in most cases. The President / CFO was one the owners of the company and active in the financial aspects of the company, but clearly hired me to run the organization. He had no interest in being the leader and interacting with the staff or operations in any form.
We had an average of 200-employees. We managed the back end operations for a bank’s credit card program. From customer service, payment processing to credit card security – we handled it all. My background was in credit card management so my experience stepping into this position was extensive. My learning curve was extremely small…except when it came to Human Resources. Out of all the departments I had managed in my career…Human Resources was not one of them. And we had a full HR Department – an HR Director, which I hired two weeks after I started, and three HR Generalists. It was a full time managing over 150 customer service representatives who worked 2-shifts.
I have to admit I was a little overwhelmed. Managing people is what I do. It’s what I am good at…but managing the process of hiring, firing, benefits, and entire company budgets…this was something that I wasn’t all that familiar with.
But here is what I learned from this experience.
My HR Director was the most important person on my management team. I needed her input, her support, and direction when making important decisions that affected the entire company. I didn’t make a move without her input. We immediately make changes in the HR Department. We moved all the administrative work to the HR Generalists so we could free up her time to work on the aspects of HR that directly affected the people and bottom line of the company.
When we met with clients I brought her with me. I remember people questioning me as to why my HR Director was in the meeting….
The more she worked with me the more she started to understand all the different operational aspects of the company. She made a point to know all the management staff and employees. She was visible on the floor and active in dealing with any issues that affected the ‘people’ – especially when it affected productivity and the bottom line.
We worked on budgets together and discussed operating costs. She was instrumental in bringing in the right talent when business directions changed. She took charge of the process of putting the right people in front of me. She knew what was needed and she knew the financial impact. She took them very seriously.
When it was time to change benefits – again she was on it. She gathered all the facts and researched the information we would need for the owners to make a decision. She stood by me through the entire process and took full control of making sure employees knew how to select the right benefit package for them or their family. She listened to complaints and fielded questions. She balanced fighting for the people with the good of the company, something that was important to me.
What I know now…
Reading the HBR article…caused me to sit back in my chair and smile.
“My HR Director attended client meetings because she was my CHRO.”
As hard as you try to keep your management team from working in silo’s – they clearly reference their own needs and department needs over the needs of the entire company. My HR Director had no silo’s she looked at all the departments as a whole. Along with me…she watched individual growth, coached managers, and helped in the development of team incentives.
She was the first to hear of issues and she was the first to ensure they were handled. She had learned to balance the organization, the people, and the bottom line. She knew when people were unhappy, she knew when someone had outgrown their position, and she also knew when they (and the company) would benefit in moving to different department or under a different manager.
My HR Director was my collaboration partner. I couldn’t have done it without her. My point in writing this article was to ask you to think about your CHRO. Are you a CHRO or do you have a CHRO reporting to you?
As the CEO it is easy to be one step outside the circle when it comes to your people. No matter how hard you try, people view you differently so you aren’t always privy to all ‘those things’ you should know about.
When your organization starts to grow so do your responsibilities – you can’t do it alone.
But then again…why would you want too?
The Westberry Group Consulting Services offers an outsourced HR option if you find you are in need of experienced HR support. We also offer HR Professional Mentoring as one of our services as well. For more information on how we can help you – check out our services page on our website.
HBR Article: People Before Strategy: A New Role for the CHRO. July-August 2015