What Does the C-Suite Want From HR?

Over the next few weeks I’ll have the opportunity to speak with thousands of HR Professionals & Leaders in business. This week I will be in North Carolina and soon following in MinnesotaNew JerseyBahamas, as well as VenezuelaOrlando and Virginia.

Part of the conversation happening in this community is the relationship between the C-suite and HR.  Does the C-suite value the work?  How can HR bridge gaps to gain credibility, support, strategic influence and cold hard cash to make a meaningful contribution? What if the C-suite just doesn’t get it?

Real questions.  A real interesting conversation during a time of HR transformation where 90% of business leaders surveyed said that they are focused on making significant changes to their human-resource policies in the next 12 to 18 months (PwC’s 2011 annual global CEO survey).

Last week while working with a client I was fortunate to attend a business briefing where a panel of 4 CEO’s talked very specifically about what they want from HR.  The focus of the conversation was how they define a “strategic HR business partner” and “what they want and need from HR now.”

4 key themes emerged from this C Suite panel regarding HR as a Strategic Business Partner:

  • Understand the Business: HR work starts with the business.  You need to be informed and understand the business strategy, objectives and obstacles as well as you understand HR.  Speak the language.  Do the requisite homework. Become an expert in the business you support and serve.
  • Be Present with Presence: Be visible.  Set meetings that focus on HR serving the business.  Offer to attend meetings that focus on business strategy and priorities.  Develop collaborative relationships with functional leaders across the enterprise in support of the HR value proposition.  Ask for feedback and establish clearly defined expectations and objectives around the HR contribution.
  • Influence with Impact: Guide leadership to serve the business the right way related to people and performance.  Coach communication.  Cultivate and celebrate culture. Reinforce and recognize values.  Be ready to demonstrate and dollarize the impact to the business around people practices.
  • Lead the People Strategy: Be proactive.  Serve as a catalyst for change.  Show up with new ideas and solutions to problems that have not been considered.  Challenge the status quo. Be an advocate for what the business needs to be doing better in an effort to optimize people and performance.  Hold the business accountable

In short summary, what the CEO wants from HR or any function for that matter is simple.


It is all about performance.


Don’t be denied.

Do the work.

Demonstrate a result.

Dollarize it.

Today you can influence the business from almost any level of the organization.  You don’t need permission to have influence.

But the one thing you do need?


That is what the C-suite wants the most.

Impact. Performance. Results.

Talent is a top of mind priority in the C-suite and HR is incredibly well positioned to deliver increasingly more value to the business. No doubt it is going to look different and I look forward these future directed conversations, ideas and insights in the coming weeks.


This was originally posted on Ryan's blog here

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.


I'm with you, Ryan. Three weeks ago, I posted this: Why HR and the CEO Should be Joined at the Hip http://ceoafterlife.com/?p=585

Hi Ryan:

I was concerned when I read "What if the C-Suite doesn't get it?" but then I finished reading the post where you nailed it, particularly in the last two paragraphs. The C-Suite absolutely understands talent issues, but I often wonder whether some on the talent side truly understand the C-Suite. Thanks for sharing Ryan.

After spending 25 years in HR and now the leader of The Westport Center, a values at work organization (www.WestportCenter.org), I am wondering when HR professionals will finally "get it". Impact and influence were talked about long ago when the profession was struggling to move from being the "Personnel" department to one of strategic influence. We have to ask ourselves, "Why, after so long, are we visiting the same issues, trying to be recognized as impactful with the C-Suite?"
The answer, I believe, is in the courage of conviction. Where is HR in standing up to the values issues within the organization? Where are the HR leaders in developing and influencing some of the key issues around pensions, health care, the constant cycle of hiring and layoffs, and true diversity? Human Resources, for many, many years, has reacted, yet rarely is the voice of the compassionate workplace.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: