There are many routes to the CEO suite, but human resource jobs are often discounted as “not the proper path.” Change may be coming though, and sooner than you think.
Did you see December’s Harvard Business Review article, titled “Why HR Chiefs Make Great CEOs—Really”? The piece focuses on research conducted by Ellie Filler and Dave Ulrich. They analyzed similarities between top performers with Chief titles. The bottom line? The best performing Chief Human Resource Officers displayed traits most similar to those of successful CEOs, more so than high performing CFOs, CMOs, or CIOs. In fact, only Chief Operating Officers, whose roles and responsibilities often overlap with CEOs, displayed higher similarities.
It’s important to recognize the critical skillsets that human resource jobs enable employees to develop: namely, managing human capital to strengthen a company. Leaders at all levels must make HR a primary focus if they want to build a team that can generate sustainable growth.
For any company to succeed, it is critical to attract and retain the right talent. Companies need to organize, compensate, and build a change-adaptive culture. While the CHRO leads these efforts for a company, these keys are the responsibility of Chiefs at all levels, independent of their job titles.
Premier organizations like The Conference Board regularly report on CEO views of top global business priorities. Their 2015 survey results are due in March, but most expect last year’s top five CEO concerns to stick:
- Human capital
- Customer relationships
- Operational excellence
- Corporate brand and reputation
With Gartner reporting that over 85% of the U.S. workforce is not fully engaged (at a cost of $370B annually), the top priorities for every manager needs to include a focus on human capital and employee engagement.
The Harvard Business Review indicates that companies will increasingly look to executives with HR experience as CEO candidates, following path finders like Mary Barra, the current CEO at General Motors. Hopefully that’s true. But even a powerful CEO can’t fix engagement issues by him or herself.
All companies need to emphasize the human capital element of every manager’s job to increase the success of the organization. Integrating HR assignments as part of the development plans for future leaders is part of the solution.
The bottom line: HR skills are critical at every level to the success of any company—really.