What HRDs want from their CEOs for Christmas

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​HRDs often see articles about what CEOs want from HR. But what about the flipside? What do HRDs want from CEOs?

Here, two HRDs from the public and private sectors write their own letters to Santa, setting out what HRDs want from their chief executives…

The public sector HRD: Sue Evans, head of HR and OD, Warwickshire County Council

Dear chief executive,

We’ve had a great year in 2016. We have helped to deliver savings, restructures and transfers. We have addressed culture and behaviours and embraced commercial skills. We think we have been very good this year. With that in mind, here is our 2017 wishlist…

  • Can we switch on the Christmas lights to shine favourably on the HR team, unsung heroes of the big transformation? In doing so, recognise the power of the people in delivering the changes we need in our services. We are dreaming of a quiet Christmas and a chance to refresh for the year ahead.
  • Accept that culture change is a slow burn. We cannot simply write a set of new behaviours and expect miracles. The three wise men journeyed for three years to bring gifts, we may need a little longer. We can get there but it's a long and tortuous journey and we need to take everyone with us.
  • Keep the star in the sky. We need you to paint a picture of a brighter tomorrow and lead the way to the future. Vision is so important. What is the purpose and direction we need to go in? What does good look like? What do you see as the priorities? Help us to understand what you see as success.
  • Let's embrace engagement. Stop talking about people as "our greatest asset. Assets are fixed, they cannot innovate, create or develop. Our people are a precious resource, to be nurtured, encouraged and empowered to take personal responsibility and deliver in new ways. Our people have the magic needed to re-design services and build the brighter future if we let them. Engaged and valued staff will deliver lasting and sustained transformation.
  • Open up the conversation early with the right people to ensure that the people issues are raised and addressed from the outset. Systems and processes are all well and good but once the cracker's been pulled the bang is gone and we're left with a lame joke.
  • Speak up to your masters with regard to the capacity and associated health and wellbeing of the five reindeers you have left to traverse the whole world with an ever increasing number of presents. Acknowledge the consequences for the disappointed children who they won’t reach this year due to ‘Santausterity’.
  • Look at the "Walk Tall: Being a 21st Century Public Servant" report and start the conversations in your Council - help us to use this to celebrate the great work being done by staff at all levels.
  • Can you invite HR to the table for the main event - not just drinks! We would like to chance to talk with you about your issues - and ours - informally as well as formally.
  • Come along to the PPMA Seminar 27-28 April 2017 and contribute to the discussions and sessions in which we explore issues key to the successful delivery of services to the public.

The private sector HRD: Danny Harmer, chief people officer, Metro Bank

An HRD is about making the organisation and the people in it better. Generally the recognition for that goes to and is spread across the business and teams – including the CEO. This is as it should be. Don’t go into HR if you want to be in the spotlight and need constant recognition and instant gratification – if that is the case get into sales pronto!

That said, on my Christmas list for what an HRD needs from an CEO is…

  • A willingness to give stuff a go that may not be able to show a ‘ROI’. Sometimes people stuff is about the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean you should spend money like water and not ask for data but proving the case for investing in (say) an LGBT+ network is pretty tricky.
  • An assumption of positive intent. If as an HRD you are giving feedback on someone (including the CEO) then it may be worth listening. If you have previously shows that you are not trustworthy or have a political agenda, you shouldn’t be in the job anyway.
  • A ‘normal’ relationship. I worry about the sometimes excessive closeness between CEOs and HRDs. This is not helpful for the rest of the team, and as an HRD you have a weird double role as part of the team and also people ‘expert’ about the team you are part of. The rest of the team already know that you are aware of their pay, performance ratings, don’t exacerbate that by letting people see the relationship as exclusive. Of course my CEO talks to me about people stuff but he talks to the CFO about finance stuff and the CRO about risk/regulatory stuff.
  • For them to take responsibility for facing into issues with their own people. Of course the HRD should support and advise but generally if there is a difficult conversation to be had, you need to have it. It is not okay to get your HRD to fire someone in your team for performance issues when you haven’t even told them. Sure, get your HRD to negotiate and manage the situation but how can someone understand why they are being asked to leave unless they hear it from you as their boss?
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