How can HR best help the CEO?

How can HR best help the CEO? I think that HR’s standing in the eyes of most of the current generation of CEOs is so low that any thoughts of a key strategic role is more wishful thinking than imminent reality.

Instead, by focusing on three areas: relationships, culture and talent, but in new, more innovative ways, HR can potentially make a significant day to day impact on the CEO and other senior executives.

Presuming the average CEO has between 8 and 12 direct reports, dealing with these relationships must take up a considerable amount of time and effort. These relationships, their dynamics and productivity are likely to play a key role on the CEOs perception of their own and the organisation’s performance. Even as an organisation’s leader, it is impossible to separate your own day to day experiences and take a global view of the organisation. For example, overall performance may be good but one or two of the CEO’s relationships with direct reports may be suffering.

By providing the CEO with the information and understanding to optimise their relationships and collaboration with those closest to them tools such as our own 4G methodology apply directly to this area, it is possible to make a significant contribution to senior level communication.

To support this, there is an interesting article from McKinsey Quarterly that emphasises the need for all managers to work at their relationship management and awareness of those around them:

“Bosses matter. They matter because more than 95 percent of all people in the workforce have bosses, are bosses, or both. They matter because they set the tone for their followers and organizations. And they matter because many studies show that for more than 75 percent of employees, dealing with their immediate boss is the most stressful part of the job.”

“The best bosses work doggedly to stay in tune with this relentless attention and use it to their advantage. They are self-absorbed, but not for selfish reasons. On the contrary, they know that the success of their people and organizations depends on maintaining an accurate view of how others construe their moods and moves – and responding with rapid, effective adjustments.”

Theoretically, HR is well placed to influence this and by systematically addressing the way each manager engages and conducts their relationships with subordinates, gains to performance and collaboration are achieved.

It is important to emphasise that this approach should not be confined to senior executives. Arguably, helping all managers improve their own relationships is the most effective use of the HR function. In a blog post, Meredith Wright cites an interesting quote from Robert Hogan:

“People don’t quit their job, they quit their boss.”

This entry is an extract from Four Groups’ Quarterly Update, originally posted here.

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