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By David Harder on February, 13, 2017

When Human Resources Ought to Keep Their Bags Packed

Pretty scary title? Well, this story can have an even more uncomfortable outcome. There is a pattern that goes on all of the time between CEOs and the Chief Human Resource Officers. I’ve encountered the pattern in my work with a sizable number of chief human resource executives as individual clients and internal business partners. Through the years I have observed why so many worthy talent executives find themselves looking for another job. In addition, this one dysfunction is behind challenges with CEO careers as well. In preparing my new book The Workplace Engagement Solution for market extensive research only deepened this conviction:


If your CEO isn’t leading the culture, keep your bags packed.


If only 13% of the world’s workers are engaged we can presume that many CEOs are also disengaged. One of the fundamental ways we see this happen is when a CEO won’t lead the culture or take personal responsibility for engagement. Many C-level human resource executives have run into the challenge. When a CEO tells human resources to fix the culture or engagement problem, all too many talent professionals give a salute and move forward.


This is why it doesn’t work out:


Culture improvement requires behavioral change and a change of heart from most every worker. So when a human resource executive tells everyone we have to in essence “transform,” the workers look to the CEO and if they see business as usual, are they going to roll up their sleeves and take on more change? Of course not. Months later, when the shareholders voice disappointment over organizational performance, who gets thrown under the bus?


In an era where change impacts talent in greater waves every day, human resource executives often need to develop more courage in speaking up to the CEO or business owner and helping them realize why culture improvement or employee engagement is a partnership. If you only get pushback on this topic it could be a good idea to keep searching for a CEO that will. It is that simple.


If you are a human resources executive, here are a few suggestions:


During your interview process, ask the CEO about his or her philosophy of human capital. What role do they play in culture? Who is in charge of culture? If they haven’t fully sorted this out, how receptive is the CEO to coaching from you? What will your partnership look like? The answers will probably tell you what to expect.


We need human resource executives with the courage to speak up when the CEO has a blind spot about this topic. But we also need more CEOs who are receptive to a role that requires their full and unabashed attention, that role is being a fully awake and enthusiastic connected leader.


If you want to get through to your current CEO, it is a good idea to bring in evidence to back this message. Research category leaders and point out how the CEO of each organization takes complete responsibility for culture and engagement. Make bridges between current culture challenges and how they were resolved in your case studies. And, in high performing environments, show the rewards CEOs encounter when they are, indeed, leading culture and engagement.


In fact, if you are a CEO and you see this pattern in your past, adopting the skills to effectively lead a culture will not only be career changing, the new outlook can be life changing. Go find a human resources executive with the background and skill to show you the way.


My new book The Workplace Engagement Solution will be published by Career Press this summer.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc. (310) 277-4850


(C) Copyright, Inspired Work, Inc. – 2017 – (All rights reserved)