Tag Archives: CEO

The Rise of HR

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I recently had the honor of participating in an effort to crowd source real business wisdom about how Human Resource Rise of HR front coverpractices sit at the center of some of the most important decisions in business and are rapidly impacting the workplace, talent, culture and business success. Three titans in the HR space, Dave Ulrich, Bill Schiemann and Libby Sartain – together with the support of the HR Certification Institute – invited a who’s who of HR from business, academia, government, consulting and the non-profit world to weigh in on what business leaders need to know to be effective in creating sustainable, long-term growth for their organizations. The 73 essays included in The Rise of HR provide a blueprint for business leaders and HR leaders alike to successfully face the challenges looming ahead of us.

The seven broad categories of essays are:

  • Context To Strategy
  • Organization
  • Talent Supply
  • Talent Optimization
  • Information & Analytics
  • HR Governance
  • HR Professionals

And with authors like Josh Bersin, Wayne Cascio, Ian Ziskin, Sue Meisinger, Diane Gherson, Arvind Agrawal – and too many other true thought leaders to list – this collection of essays should be on the top of the reading list of every CEO and every CHRO – and every person who aspires to be a CHRO.

My essay on page 179, “CEOs Want Better Performance. Great Culture Can Make It Happen,” draws from my own experience as a CEO as well as the research and analysis from the Great Place to Work Institute. I think you’ll find it compelling if you’re trying to improve your organization’s performance.

Check out The Rise of HR. Unlimited copies are available in PDF and EPUB which are sharable on nearly every device. If you read one essay a day for the next 73 days you will be so much smarter and will be able to identify solutions to the issues that are fast piling up on all of us. This crowd-sourced collection is a win-win-win-win for the HR profession, for HR professionals, for business leaders and for employees everywhere.

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CHRO to CEO: Stairway to Heaven

Data Point TuesdayThe Korn Ferry Institute recently released a report that looks at the leadership traits of “best-in-class” executives, and the important relationship between Chief Executive Officers and Chief Human Resources Officers. The report “CEOs and CHROs: Crucial Allies and Potential Successors” confirms that for C-suite roles technical skills are just a fraction of what makes for successful leadership, and that executives in the top 10% of pay for their function tend to have leadership styles that motivate employees, develop future leaders, and create appropriate cultures. The workplace today is shifting to place greater value and more intently evaluate leaders on such areas as how they treat people, foster the right work environment, and encourage future leaders. As Korn Ferry’s report asserts, this type of evaluation is warranted because “well-managed talent, leadership, and culture are what enable sustainable customer, operational, and financial results.”

After analysis, Korn Ferry found that across functions, best-in-class leaders have greater levels of emotional awareness and competence in six key areas:

  • Tolerance of ambiguity
  • Empathy
  • Confidence
  • Composure
  • Energy
  • Adaptability

These best-in-class leaders are “change champions” who are comfortable not having all the answers as well as being around a diverse group of people, enabling them to see from perspectives different than their own. They are empathetic towards others and quick to read a room, have the confidence to take risks and make decisions, remain composed in high-pressure situations, are energetic and enthusiastic, and are adaptable and easily able to accommodate others methods.

Korn Ferry emphasizes the importance of CEOs having allies that will tell them more than “what they already know” and allow them to leverage deep insights on culture, leadership, and talent. CHROs are uniquely positioned to fill this ally role because in many organizations, a great deal of expertise on the importance of leadership, culture, and integration is concentrated in HR. CEOs are increasingly seeking broader insight from their CHROs. This touches on the expanding or redefined role of HR in today’s workplace. In recent years, HR has moved away from being solely an administrative function that defined terms and conditions of work. HR practices now often help to implement strategy at the organization level, and as organizations seek to match their brands with their organizational culture, CHROs find themselves in an expanded role uniquely suited to support their top executives.

After looking at research from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the RBL Group, Korn Ferry determined that high performing CHROs master six competency domains that are also essential to CEO success:

  • Strategic positioner
  • Credible activist
  • Capability Builder
  • Change Champion
  • HR innovator and integrator
  • Technology (information) proponent

These HR professionals “go beyond knowing the business to helping CEOs focus strategic direction and align choices that create value for investors and customers and respond to changing external conditions.” They are able to build trusting relationships with key stakeholders like customers and investors, initiate and sustain change, recognize the importance of culture and foster theirs, innovate and integrate HR and people practices, and use workforce analytics and technology to enhance HR practices and make informed decisions.

Over the last several decades, Korn Ferry has profiled leadership styles of thousands of senior executives, including CEOs, CHROs, CFOs, CMOs, and CIOs. Their assessments gauge how much importance an individual places on 14 attributes that have been sorted into three categories: leadership style, thinking style, and emotional competencies. While the graphs below show that most best-in-class executives have a similar leadership profile, it’s clear that CEOs and CHROs are very much “cut from the same cloth”.
thinking styles chartleadership styles chartemotional competencies chartWhen Korn Ferry calculated the Euclidean Distance from the profile of the best-in-class

CEO (in which a lower number indicates more similarity), they found that overall, best-in-class CHROs (distance .735) are closer to CEOs across 14 traits than are CFOs (.82), CMOs (1.039), and CIOs (1.031).

The similarity in profiles between CEOs and CHROs helps to support the earlier explanations as to why CEOs may turn to CHROs as a main strategy ally and leadership/talent coach. Korn Ferry proposes, too, that as we continue to see these more rounded and fluid HR roles, CEO successors may come from HR in addition to more traditional areas like finance, marketing, operations and IT. As CEOs increasingly manage organizational challenges as well as customers, products, and financial concerns, CHROs may offer unique skills as a successor that others do not. Already we see that CHROs match CEOs’ leadership profiles as well or more than any other executive:Score Difference by Executive chart

Korn Ferry points out that of course, CHROs will not be considered for succession without experience in business operations. With this foundation though, top CHROs could excel as CEOs, bringing specific desired attributes such as: deep insights about their organization, high self-awareness, excellent people managing skills, and the knowledge of how to serve external stakeholders through internal actions. In short, don’t be surprised if savvy, best-in-class Gen X CHROs start replacing the aging Baby Boomer CEOs.

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From the Archives: Memo to HR

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Until last week’s post about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting, the post below from March 18, 2011 was the most read of all my posts.  Interesting.

TO:                         HR

FROM:                  China Gorman

RE:                         News flash!

Date:                     March 18, 2011

Guess what?  Your CEO probably gets it.

I know HR pros like to kvetch about the C-Suite in their organizations:

  • “My CEO doesn’t get it.”
  • “The CEO and CFO run the business like people are widgets.”
  • “I can’t get the C-Suite interested in cutting edge HR solutions.”

Those days are over, friends.  I’ve met and talked with a number of CEOs lately.  CEOs from Fortune 200 companies, medium-sized companies and start-ups.  I’ve been struck by the conversations we’ve had.  Because in each case, these CEOs exhibit many of the behaviors HR pros are looking for from their CEOs.  Here are some of the signs:

1.       Talent acquisition/development comes up early in a conversation about their top challenges.

2.       They have done reading – or in some cases, writing – about corporate culture and are actively involved in leading a change in their organization’s culture.

3.       They have embraced the research of an OD or culture expert/guru whose work they are integrating into their culture and language.

4.       Succession planning is among the top issues on which their leadership team is working.

5.       Employee engagement is critical to them.  They know the scores of their organization’s most recent employee attitude survey and are peering over the shoulders of their operations leaders to ensure the opportunities for improvement are moving forward — in line with the culture change work they’re leading.

6.       Supervisors/managers are measured by how well they manage the performance and development of their people.

7.        Diversity/inclusion enters the conversation early when talking about culture.

But here’s the thing, HR.  This is a trend.  We’re going to see more and more of these behaviors from CEOs as we experience the pending generational shift in the ultimate C-Suite in organizations large and small.

So here’s the big question:  Are you ready? Are you ready to be evidence-based in your leadership?  Are you ready to base organization and business solutions on current research and analytics?  I hope so.  Because the next generation of CEOs – as well as some in the current generation as my experience indicates – while  they’re beginning to focus on what HR would say are the right issues, they’re still the CEO.  They’re still all about the numbers.  Outcomes.  Growth.  Quality.  They still need fact and data to support their decision making.  That’s not going to change.   And if they don’t get that fact and data from HR where are they going to get it?

CEOs don’t really make critical decisions much by “gut feel” and that probably won’t change.  Ever.   Sure, some may be more spontaneous than others.  Some may be more extroverted than others.  And some may actually sound like HR professionals.  But they’re still CEOs.  They still have to deliver top and bottom line performance this quarter and next.  And they have to have a plan for the longer horizon – a plan that is based on real data and supported by the current set of facts.

Where would the average HR professional begin to source useful research data and analytics?  SHRM, CIPD, ASTD, WorldatWork – all the large HR-related professional associations are investing more and more into their research capabilities.  They all conduct and publish top notch research in every aspect of the people domain in organizations. They want their members to embrace more rigorous and sound methodologies.  Heck.  They’re pleading with their members to be consumers of relevant research because they know the day of reckoning is approaching.

Other organizations like The Conference Board, the Corporate Executive Board and Bersin & Associates all publish extraordinary research that enable HR to make fact-based decisions and to get HR metrics aligned with financial metrics.  Free sources of actionable research-based data include the SHRM Foundation, the U.S. Department of Labor,  the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and innumerable non-profit organizations that cover the waterfront of issues and functions.

Since more and more CEOs are “getting” the fact that people and culture are critical to business success, is HR “getting” that in order to respond to this CEO movement in their direction, they need to be making movement into the fact and data-based world of the CEO?  I surely hope so.

It’s past time to get comfortable with research and analytics — and making them actionable.

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Will the earth be moving under our feet?

We scored great seats tomorrow night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here in #VegasBaby to hear James Taylor and Carole King

And that’s gotten me thinking about this theory that I have that the music that you listened to in your high school and college years is your music for life.  It’s what was playing in your head during the most formative experiences in becoming who you are and it is sort of imprinted in your brain as your music.  And it’s the music that still moves you to tears or to dance.  It’s true for me.  There are James Taylor and Carole King songs that, when I hear them, transport me to a specific dorm room, a specific “dance in the gym,” or a particular heartbreak.

And, odd as it may be, that makes me think about CEOs and their expectations from HR.  I think that CEOs look to their current HR for what HR gave them in their first general management positions.  I think the HR they got then is their HR for life.  So, if in their first divisional GM role their HR support was compliance oriented, transaction focused and created more hurdles than solutions, then that’s what they expect from their HR now – and it’s hard to break out of that expectation set and learn to demand a new set of solutions. 

Think about it.  If true, then we should be feeling the earth move under our feet soon.  We should be seeing some great strides forward in the strategic role HR plays as the current generation of CEOs gives way to the next generation.  Because the next generation of CEOs worked in organizations where HR was led and is being led by some of the great HR leaders who operate strategically and are true solutions providers to the business.  I’m talking about the Libby Sartains, Dennis Donovans, Dennis Dowdells, and Rick Beyers of the world:  HR leaders who look, sound and act like business leaders.  They – and lots just like them – have trained a whole new generation of executives to look to HR for solutions to the most important business issues of the day.  And when those executives get to the CEO’s office HR had better be prepared to start swinging for the fences!  Because the expectations for business solutions from HR will be huge!

So… the music of our college years stays with us just as the HR of fledgling management years stays with business leaders.  Makes sense to me.

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