CEOs Expectations From ‘HR’!

CEOs Expectations From ‘HR’!

In the ever-changing business environment, the HR function has undergone unprecedented change, and business leaders expect HR to redefine its role and its contribution to an enterprise. So how can HR function go beyond its traditional, conventional and transactional role to become more transformational and play an enabling role for business to achieve its goals? Let’s find out!

Sachidanand R KulkarniLet’s face some hard questions: Why HR exists? Why is it on the Organisation Chart?

These questions are hard to be asked and digested by HRs, but whether we accept it or not, the truth is –‘Business’ is the sponsor of all the roles & functions. If the business exists, sustains and grows, it may continue to be the reason for everyone’s growth and reason to come to the office. Therefore, understanding ‘Business’ and what makes it sustain and grow becomes vital for not only HR but all supporting functions for business to happen.

Whether it is CEO, CFO, Sales, HR, Admin or any function for that matter, it consists of a group of people with different capabilities who put efforts to achieve what business desires.

‘Business’ from an HR perspective can be understood as – Collective capability of human capital, channelized in a particular direction to achieve desired goals! Can we imagine a ‘Business’ without people? Not at all! Whatever great business idea and strategy we may have, but that’s all brought to reality by people with their capability and efforts and hence HR’s role is highly pivotal for the growth of a business.

Thinking Why & How?

An HR is supposed to be a ‘Human Science’ expert, a trained professional to understand human dynamics, decode what enhances people performance, create conditions for people & businesses to perform and continually develop capabilities for today and tomorrow’s business. HR is supposed to help the organisation capitalize on the capabilities of its human strength and achieve the best out of every single unit of human efforts in the organisation.

In the ever-changing business environment (VUCA) and market dynamics, a business expects HR function to go beyond its traditional, conventional and transactional role to be more transformational and play an enabling role for business to achieve its goals.

This is what exactly CEOs expect from HR!

  • Be a soundboard and guide for the CEO
  • Seek external mentorship for CEO & develop the capability to move ahead
  • A friend, whom a CEO can trust to share business and personal challenges
  • Help business grow by channelizing strength of human capital
  • Be brutally honest in giving/ sharing feedback

For HR professionals to be able to contribute to the growth of business and people, business leaders and CEO’s expect following key competencies in HR professionals:

1. Business Acumen

HR must develop a genuine interest and get involved in understanding the business context of the company. What can HR do to develop business acumen competency?

  • Research and study business environment and market in which your company operates (Systems Theory approach, PESTLE analysis, etc.)
  • Meet sales, marketing and business development team regularly and understand what they are working on, what are their goals and challenges?
  • What is the market demand and what your company delivers/supplies?
  • What is your company’s business model, how does your company makes money, and why is it important to
    understand the financial performance of your company?
  • Learn how to read & interpret a balance sheet, income statement, profitability and costs, and what is the connection of it with human resources and their efforts & performance?
  • Develop a deep understanding of the overall business cycle – Input – Throughput – Output of your company.
  • Participate in business discussions, establish facts and performance through data and build a credible partnership with other functions and leadership teams.
  • Your next board/executive meeting must have your seat reserved!

2. Alignment of HR with Business Strategy

  • Understand business strategy & goals clearly, meet business leaders and seek to learn and know more.
  • Learn to convert business goals into HR goals – Example: If your business wants to grow by 30% revenues in 1 year, what would it mean to HR for its actions in terms of Recruitment, Retention, Skill development, Performance, Productivity, etc.
  • Understand changing dynamics and trends of current and future skills, technology & talent and therefore, work with the business team on possibilities and challenges.
  • Work on existing processes, policies, guidelines if they need a change in order to enable people to achieve future goals.
  • Policies & guidelines should be flexible to meet the need of the hour and not rigid or one-size-fits-all.
  • Work closely with business teams and monitor performance, outcomes and take timely feedback for real-time improvements of people performance.
  • Each business unit, customer and team may have their own needs and challenges to deliver on the promise, HR must understand these and customize its offering to enable performance in the business context.

3. Evidence-Based/Data-Driven HR

  • Help leaders take appropriate and informed decisions that are backed by evidence with data and facts.
  • Consolidate overall organisational data points and prepare various meaningful reports that can be used by various stakeholders for making business decisions.
  • Learn to analyze data, interpret business issues and challenges and come up with solutions from the HR point of view.
  • Highlight priority issues, dependencies, challenges, what’s working and not working with data and drive focused conversations with leaders.
  • Being data and result-oriented HR can help a business to take the right decision at the right time.

4. Strategic Business Partner (HRBP)

HR professionals must work closely with the business strategy team and CXOs to understand future plans of the company and track goals & changes regularly.

  • Be an active participant and provide inputs from the market on skills, technology & talent in order to shape a workable strategy.
  • Communicate strategy & goals to the rest of the organisation in simple and understandable language.
  • Help teams align and connect with what we collectively desire to achieve.
  • Upgrade skills and align HR function and its day-to-day actions to help business teams to ease their work.
  • Prepare proactively for the future in terms of recruitment, skills &competencies and logistics.
  • Unlike a business which has its own strategy, develop an HR strategy that enables the business to achieve its goals.

5. Leadership-Navigator

  • Executive leaders/CEOs/CXOs are expected to deliver board expectations, they are paid for revenue and profit growth, return value to shareholder and measured on how numbers are moving upward.
  • CXOs focus is on somehow making things happen to prove they are worth it, and therefore, they are constantly
    moving index.
  • Executive leadership seems to be constantly under pressure, stress, anxiety and doing multiple things at a time, everything seems to be a priority and building tensions and fire with immediate second-line leadership.
  • The amount of stress and pressure executive team exhibits leads to the toxic work culture where only task, status, reviews, updates & reports matter the most.
  • Collaboration, sense of commitment, result-orientation and accountability suffer.
  • The role of an HR in this scenario is to be a ‘Friend to CEO’, ‘Listening Ear’ to Executive Team, observing closely their behaviours, actions and decisions they make.
  • Listen and understand leadership challenges, be it business, hierarchy, internal politics, status-quo or integrity issues.
  • Provide true pulse and feedback of the floor to the leadership team, use analytics, data and evidence-based approach here to retrospect on past decisions and impact.
  • Identify vulnerabilities of the leadership team, their competence gap at an individual level and be a close advisor on what he/she needs to work on.
  • Keep the CXO team away from operational issues, conflicts and enable them to focus on business growth.
  • Arrange required external/ internal interventions such as Executive Coaching, Mentoring, Yoga, Meditation and other such required factors that contribute to being a highly competent leader.
  • HR – Be a true ‘Navigator’, helping a CEO to drive an organisation to reach its desired destination!



Financial Performance and success of the company is an outcome of collective human efforts, and HR being a ‘Human Science’ expert, it must take its share of accountability to help business and organisation succeed.

HR is on the organisation chart to ‘Keep Business in Business’!!!


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