There is a strong belief that HR is a support function and HR professionals cannot venture into main stream management and lead the vision of a Company . Therefore, there are very few HR professionals who attain the position of CEO in a Company. This notion can easily be changed with a little bit of effort and focus in a few crucial areas of overall company management. In this write up I would cover some of the important points that would help HR professionals climb the corporate ladder and we could have more and more of HR professionals becoming Board Members and even CEOs. A CEO is a corporate title for the human face of a business. Occupying the seat of CEO of any corporation is a challenging and complex practice. CEO must recognize the value of HR, because if a CEO does not inculcate the culture of hiring the right people at the right time, then he/she cannot drive an organization in a right direction.
Key Focus Points To Achieve Top Management Positions
1. Play a significant a role in driving shareholder value.
Although directly in measurable terms a HR professional cannot drive the shareholder value. But by being the arbiter of corporate culture and by focusing a good part of their responsibility on a positive morale about the company across the organization, the HR professionals can make sure that people keep working and are always motivated and happy. This will positively contribute to overall shareholder value.
2. Be an important contributor to the company’s overall mission.
HR needs to have no illusions about their role in the business. As hard as it may be to accept HR is a service organization that provides support to the business. This is most clear in that HR is a cost center and does not drive revenue. Still the HR can be an important contributor to the company’s overall mission by supporting the business in the way that it needs support and make sure that the business is compliant with laws, rules, regulations, and policies. By helping the business navigate through these areas to move forward. Do not set up roadBLOCKS rather provide roadSIGNS. By doing this the HR could be perceived more than a support function and looked as partner in the company’s progress.
3. Help to brand the company as an ‘employer of choice’.
Creating a strong employment brand is important, but also retaining top talent, driving down attrition by helping management understand that empowering employees with information makes it possible for them to take ownership of the company mission. If there is a top-down approach to management in this way then the organization becomes stronger and the employees feel like they made a good choice to work for the company, and the moves in the direction of being "employer of choice".
4. Focus on people and culture and not compliance and policies.
A great HR professional understands the meaning of the two words HUMAN and RESOURCE. That the HR role in the business is all about the people (not ALL ABOUT process, and metrics, and policies) and that the HR organization is a resource to the employee and the management. A mediocre HR professional places too much value on the corporate structure and looks to implement programs and ideas based on some overblown process that is either driven by metrics or cost and loses sight that "people are the true engine of a company, without them the company will fail". Therefore there has to be a greater focus on people and culture and not on compliance and policies. Thus aim to become a great HR professional and not a Mediocre one.
5. Drive the Line Managers to be successful in their hiring efforts.
The biggest failure of HR professionals is not helping the line managers drive to their desired results. While HR is a service and support organization, this is one area where HR can stop being a lap-dog. By helping the line managers understand their recruitment and staffing needs and its urgency, their need to focus on making the hire and making sound decisions in a timely manner. Even if the line managers drag their feet and were to take 3-5 months to hire someone, HR will still be blamed for the length of time it took to make the hire. So as long as HR will take the heat anyway, HR needs to own this process as well and drive the manager to be successful in their hiring efforts.
6. Prepare yourself well to succeed in other line functions of the Company.
This is very important. HR professionals have to be more flexible and more adaptable than any other line managers in the organisation. Because the focus of HR expertise is the most unpredictable part of the business, which is the People, the landscape of what the HR professionals do changes daily. This well prepares HR professionals to deal with the rest of the business in terms of the adversity they may face entering into new roles and the people they will have to work with. Often time the really great people skills are the one thing that can't be taught. Finance, Marketing, Administration, even engineering, research, and development can be taught. Understanding people skills is very important to succeed as a line manager and HR professionals are well versed with it.
7. Always try to meet the expectations of the line managers.
HR professionals must understand what it takes to be an effective business colleague and invest time to gain credibility with the line managers they work with. They should always try to meet the expectations of the line managers and always under promise and over deliver to them. This certainly helps to spread the popularity of HR professionals in an organization.
8. Drive people to make great decisions and see the big picture.
Great HR professionals get their hands dirty in the day to day work of HR. This would help them grow up the corporate ladder and be able to sit comfortably as the CEO. Additionally, they may come to understand the business very well. A CEO role that is all about managing a team and taking the company towards success should be something that a great HR professional can do well. Driving people to make great decisions and see the big picture.
9. Always aim to report to the CEO.
Jack Welch of GE often talks about the true value of HR function and what it brings to the table and how important and undervalued it is by many of his peers. He has been quoted as saying, "If you are the top HR professional in a company and don't report directly to the CEO then get out." He means that the CEO has to have that regular visibility and view into his company from HR's perspective. Without that he may make great money and business decisions for the company, but if those decisions feed back negatively on his workers then he knows that leads towards failure. This summarizes the importance of reporting to the CEO for both . the HR professional and for the CEO himself.
In conclusion, it can be said with a proper focus on all the above mentioned points, there is no reason why a HR professional cannot move up the corporate ladder and occupy a Board seat or a position as A CEO in an organization. There have been a good number of HR people who have moved into CEO roles.
In almost all of these cases I, they have moved laterally into other executive roles, before being appointed into the CEO role. In my view, it would be very difficult and unlikely to be promoted without having had P&L responsibility for a division or part of the business. Therefore it is important that Hr professionals desiring to move up the corporate ladder should aim at having some operational line management responsibilities, before moving ahead.