By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO
The CHRO owns human resources, sure, but that’s not what they “do” for the company. Benefits administration and HR operations are important yet tactical necessities that fall under the CHRO umbrella as they should. Attracting talent at all levels and functions is part of the overall strategy of the business and a critical inch for any type of scaled growth. Onboarding, learning, and development is essential to employees planting roots with your company and it feeling like their professional “home”. And evaluating workplace productivity and efficiency in balance with employee harmony is the holy grail of purpose for any organization. If you’re the CEO of a company with 200 people in a single office or 200,000 people distributed around the globe, these described responsibilities can only be led by a dynamic and strategic business leader with a passion for people, effectiveness, and culture.
Benefits and HR Administration
Every company needs to have competitive healthcare benefits. Large companies are expected to have 401K matches, pre-tax flex spending accounts, tuition reimbursement, perhaps car allowance, cell phone expense, T&E for appropriate roles, maybe a country club membership, and other incentives. Startups are still expected to have decent healthcare benefits, but maybe the 401k has no match and there are limited additional incentives. But startups offer equity and the possibility for fast-track promotion of responsibilities as the company experiences rapid scale. Startups often also offer unlimited PTO. Different people will be attracted to the perceived stability of a F1000 company and others will be drawn to the excitement of an early-stage venture, however basic benefit expectations will be consistent through their lens. This is important but comparatively easy for a capable CHRO.
War for Talent: Attraction and Hiring
Placing ads on Indeed.com or LinkedIn helping you land A-players? Nope. A-players, executives and individual contributors alike, are heads down immersed in excellence and kicking ass where they work today. That’s why they’re marketable and why you want to attract and hire them. Your company reputation as a leader (first to market, biggest volume, bleeding edge tech, compensation and upside) is very important. Your company reputation for culture, fun, mission, and leadership integrity is also critically important. Hiring a single internal recruiter to fill 20 open requisitions for different hiring managers, in different roles, at different levels, in different locations is impossible to perform with qualitative results. But this isn’t an uncommon practice and that internal recruiter is often fairly junior to boot. This practice is devoid of strategy. Build out the internal recruiting team and incentivize them to perform. Selectively utilize 3rd party firms for contingency model volume or retained model guarantees. The best companies also leverage social media, promote their successes to the entire ecosystem to create a buzz, attend conferences and events to indirectly promote the company. Hiring executives up to and including the CEO should reach out directly to desirable candidates including times when they don’t have any open positions. I had an old boss who used to tell me “keep the lobbies full” which meant keep interviewing all the time, you’ve not yet met the greatest hire you’ll ever make. Smart CHRO’s focused on the mid to long-term will always have an effective strategy and not leave this critical component to chance.
War for Talent: Onboarding, Learning, and Development
If you can’t retain your top people, someone else will! Once hired, you want your employees top to bottom to view your company as a “career vehicle” and not merely a job. Good people can find a “job” anywhere and great people will be courted for their entire careers to consider opportunities at alternative companies. There is no way to prevent this reality, but the best companies mitigate risk of employee attrition by building a company that continually invests and stretches its employees. New skills, new responsibilities, and new challenges are essential for intellectual growth and continuing interest in any endeavor. So what is your company plan around this clear need to keep your best people motivated to come to your office and not answer recruiter calls about other company offices? An effective CHRO can design and implement a structured methodology that involves all employees and leaders which will simultaneously further promote a culture of engagement.
This doesn’t always fall under the scope and responsibility of the CHRO. In fact, this often doesn’t fall under anyone’s scope or responsibility and it’s a giant opportunity missed. We have data all around us, but without a strategy to measure that data companies won’t have anything to evaluate. Designing a culture around accountability and outcomes is critical. Obviously the head of sales can’t understand what kind of output one of the engineers should be producing in terms of writing code nor can that engineer suggest how efficient the corporate controller should be with her time. But the leaders of each functional area should have SMART goal objectives and strategies that can be validated in one form or another. With the support and vocal backing of the CEO, the CHRO can be the key instrument to deliver that expectation and work as partners to the functional leaders to ensure these initiatives are built and become part of the company fabric. When initiated properly, the employees will ultimately embrace the culture of productivity and efficiency as expectations of their scope of responsibility. The CHRO can build a balance of “here’s what the company will do for you and here is what you need to do for the company”. When clear expectations are understood and performed, harmony and cohesion become embedded in your company.
CEOs with vision invest in this strategic function and don’t view HR as a cost center. Effective human capital organizations serve as the lubricant to the corporate engine and without it, major maintenance issues will soon be necessary and if unattended long enough, a total overhaul will be warranted. Eventually boards become dissatisfied with CEO performance and those CEOs find themselves out of their position. Those subpar performances can very often be attributed directly or indirectly to a breakdown in personnel, morale, and the confluence of delayed timing to remedy the status. Sadly, many CEOs might never recognize this reality and those CEOs are assured of not being CEO very long. Wise up, slow down to speed up, and hire a dynamic business leader to own your HR operations. It will be the best hire you ever make.