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By David Harder on October, 18, 2017

Why Chief Human Resource Officers Can Become CEOs

Virtually every business publication and relevant academic research paper indicate that attracting, developing and motivating talent is the single most important element in successful business today. One of the most common failures with CEOs not reaching the objectives of their business plan is in their refusal to take charge of the culture and other people initiatives such as employee engagement. While it might feel counterintuitive to many, only the CEO can motivate everyone to commit to the most difficult aspects of culture change.


Most employee engagement initiatives fail over this typical pattern: The CEO walks into human resources and ask the director to “fix the engagement problem.” By the time he or she hits the door, they are already disengaged. The human resource executive starts promoting engagement but employees look over that individual’s shoulder to the CEO for cues. They see “business as usual.” The company takes an employee survey, which only makes managers feel more inadequate. They are sent to a retreat center returning enthused. The employees respond, “so what?”


In a world of accelerating change, employer brands have become just as important as the consumer message. Organizations that attract the best talent are also attracting the premium consumer. So, the employer brand literally defines what any organization is going to become. For years, personnel was a silo that dealt with day-to-day problems which morphed into human resources, an implication that people were actually a resource and now we are stepping into talent. In the world of talent, we have a recognition that it is our people that bring in innovation, problem solving, creativity, resourcefulness and in the best of cases, a common mission. The big shakedown of change is impacting the human resource profession. Task oriented work is quickly being turned over to technology and outsourcing. In the aftermath, we find a group of talent professionals with a sophisticated understanding in how to link mission to talent, who understand how to connect shareholder value to the value of people. These are good strategists who make good business decisions. In the best of cases, they have well-developed business intelligence connected to well-developed hearts.


Why not consider them for the post of CEO?


What is their barrier of entry? One of the biggest challenges is the fact that many talent professionals are still oriented to measuring their value by activity rather than results. They bury themselves in things to do rather than confronting some of the more frightening aspects of leadership like taking a stand around policy, speaking up to other C-level executives and developing a strong support system both within the organization as well as the outside world. Often, building sales and presentation skills help. Finding mentors that have successfully made that transition can provide game-changing insights. Breaking some of the perceptions of human resources being soft, for the people, granular, and lacking courage are also necessary.


Once a chief human resource officer masters these critical business skills it really doesn’t hurt to start seeing the world through the eyes of everyone sitting at the table, especially the CEO. It doesn’t hurt to find other CEOs for mentorship, especially ones that have achieved category leadership. Finding, securing and developing world-class teams is one of the sure-fire ways to become a category leader. Understanding and motivating the human side of the business eludes so many organizations. So why not consider talent executives who’ve earned the role? If there is a world war for talent, why not routinely look at the Chief Human Resource Officer to win the game?


Here are a few suggestions for human resource executives who want to develop their potential:


  • Reach beyond other human resource professionals for mentorship. Pursue mentors that demonstrate strong across-the-board leadership skills.
  • Develop a strong understanding of technical, marketing and financial skill sets.
  • If you are in an especially large company, apply for rotating leadership roles to strengthen your skills and the way you are perceived.
  • Develop and practice a personal brand that builds the perception, “I can lead this organization.”

If you are a board member and you buy this message, you know what to do.


If you are a CEO and are developing a succession strategy, there isn’t a better time to evaluate your bias and move forward on this topic.


If you are a talent executive, buy the message, and want this outcome, feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to make a few introductions.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work Services, Inc.

(C) Copyright, 2017, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)

If you would like to discuss your workplace or your career with David Harder, schedule fifteen-minutes Here.