When contemplating adding or replacing a CHRO or VP of HR for your organization, many considerations can come to bear. Defining what a good HR executive should, or could, do for you is an important first step.

HR leadership roles are often viewed through differing lenses with different priorities.

The HR Compliance Specialist

Federal, State and local laws and regulations regarding recruiting, employee status, benefits and a myriad of other factors involving employment in an organization can be daunting. Staying on top of current compliance and regulatory changes is a necessary priority for any size of organization.

When a corporate leader wants to make sure the organization is compliant and wants to mitigate risk, it is easy to see the need to have an executive leader they can trust to give those considerations proper focus.

The Compensation & Benefits Guru

Clearly, the cost and complexity of employee benefits and strategic compensation are a primary concern for any organization. Understanding options, creative solutions and the competitive landscape are critical for success. When those factors weigh heavy, a leader that can bring solutions is an attractive option.

The People “Fixer”

When conflict, employee discontent and corporate dysfunction become a significant issue, someone that can “smooth things over” is often seen as a priority. Someone “likeable” and “nice” that likes to help people may seem like a solution to make people happy again.

The New Candidate Recruiter

Particularly when the job market is near full-employment and great talent is hard to get, someone that can devote time and expertise to finding and capturing the people needed to run a successful business is highly desired. Understanding strategies, current tools and effective selection processes is a specialized area in today’s world that can make a significant difference in the success of the organization.

The Training, Development, and Onboarding Leader

Sometimes there is a widespread gap between performance and expectations. It may be clear there is insufficient training and instruction for people to fully understand their roles and objectives. Bringing in a leader that can create the necessary structure to provide that guidance seems prudent for the organization.

What characteristics of an effective HR executive should be considered?

HR leaders are often seen as a necessary cost of doing business that can address specific concerns. Often times however, they are not thought of as a true business partner to the executive leadership team – which is completely incorrect thinking. A highly effective HR executive can truly add value and even increase profitability through understanding the business and creating HR strategies and structures to positively impact the bottom line.

A Business Person First

When college students or entry-level Human Resources professionals are asked why they chose HR as a profession, the most common answer they give is that they want to help people. They often express sentiments like:

  • I want to help people get jobs
  • I want to help solve people’s problems in their work
  • I want to help provide a great work environment for people
  • I want to help people get better benefits, or training, or promotions

While each of those aims can be a good aspect of a successful HR strategy, the primary objective of an effective HR leader is to help the business succeed. HR leaders in many organizations don’t see their role in that light. Finding one that does is a first step toward identifying a true business partner on your leadership team.

A Solution Finder

The most effective HR leaders are not necessarily Subject Matter Experts in all aspects of HR. They will have learned how to find the answers they need… either from expertise they hire on their team or through external resources they can access when a challenge is before them.

The most desirable trait for an organization is to have someone that identifies issues and opportunities that can be addressed with Human Resource solutions.

A recent CHRO placement told a story from her previous role that illustrates this factor exceptionally well:

The sales department was presented with an opportunity from their largest client for a very significant piece of business. However, it required 70 more employees with specialized skills that have always been notoriously difficult to recruit, and they would have needed them in 1 ½ weeks. The sales team let their client know that they would likely need to decline the business because of their inability to fulfill the contract.

The HR leader, however, told them to sign the contract and she would deliver. Although she had never been a Recruiting specialist, she immediately went into high gear to brainstorm with her team, research best practices, contract additional recruiting resources, find additional creative solutions, and get to work finding the necessary people. She accomplished their objective and the company further cemented their relationship with their biggest customer. Furthermore, the organization had a great sense of accomplishment from achieving a significant goal, and they added substantial profit to their bottom-line.

Many HR leaders can identify problems or see roadblocks when attempting big objectives, however, few see and jump on an opportunity to increase the bottom-line in such a business-focused way. In the story above, the HR leader helped people get jobs, increased employee engagement with a common goal, gave people opportunities for variety in their work, and created opportunities for growth.

Pulling on the Oars Together

While diversity of thinking, ideas and perspectives have great value on a leadership team, shared values and objectives are critical. Someone pulling on the oars in the same direction is a key trait to a successful business partner.

When leaders in an organization have opposing goals and differing values when determining what’s appropriate in achieving those goals, great conflict and organizational decline is inevitable.

In order to identify someone that will be an asset to a team over a long period of time, a relationship formation process is crucial in the selection stage. Understanding the “how’s and why’s” about someone is usually more important than the “what’s” about their career.

Determine how they make decisions and why they chose one direction over another in various circumstances. Understand the values that inform their decisions and whether those are compatible with the Organizational Leader and Executive Team, or not.

Certainly, an HR Leader has to have an understanding of a variety of functional areas in the field. However, once a pool of candidates with those requirements is identified, the most important indicators of an individual’s success will be their business perspective, their solutions orientation, and their compatible goals and values to your organization.