The Value of a Working Relationship Between HR and the CEO

May 17, 2017 Andrew Larsen

Successful CEOs have a vision for where they want to take their company. However, no CEO can get there alone. Turning that vision into a reality requires the right workforce. But, no matter how dynamic, vision alone cannot always pull the best out of a group of people with different personalities and skill sets. That’s where a robust human resource department comes in. HR can manage talent in a way that increases employee engagement, builds a strong corporate culture and fuels company growth allowing the CEO to steer the company toward its goals.

Since a company’s largest expense is usually its workforce and since the right talent can either make or break a business, a CEO should work to build a strong working relationship with their HR department. The benefits of doing so are mutual. HR will have access to insights and resources from the CEO, and the CEO will know specific ways to positively influence their workforce.

The five w’s of hiring
Who to hire, when to hire, what skills to look for, where to hire, and why there is a need to hire, are all questions that can be answered with clarity when a CEO and HR come together. When a CEO sets a new direction for the company, or wants to expand a certain department to optimize revenue, HR needs to be ready to know just the kind of person needed for the job. If HR is unaware of the CEO’s vision, new hires may not be the right fit for a needed role.

Impactful onboarding
In a large organization, CEOs might not individually greet new hires. This is a missed opportunity. When new hires are greeted by the CEO, it can lead to greater engagement, higher levels of satisfaction, and ultimately, a reduced turnover rate. HR can make recommendations on how a CEO can be involved with the onboarding of new hires and this in turn can connect CEOs with their workforce in ways they may have never known before.

Improved employee engagement
The two people who have the biggest influence on employee engagement are HR and the CEO. Alone, either of these parties could bring a positive boost to the workforce. But, the magic happens when a CEO works closely with HR. HR can identify causes of disengagement and suggest strategies that cater to the needs of employees to bring the CEO greater clarity.

“The HR department can also help the CEO understand what’s happening in the workplace by conducting employee surveys,” says Tara Duggan, business writer for the Houston Chronicle. “An effective CEO can then respond with empathy and sincerity to address employee issues and improve productivity.”

Confidence in compliance
Ease of mind is something that CEOs cherish and the best department that can provide that confidence is HR. After all, HR is there to keep the CEO informed about the legalities of managing a workforce. Even though it may seem small, a CEO who has a good working relationship with their HR department can be confident they won’t take a step that results in unexpected fines or litigation without being warned by HR first.

A stronger culture
A good corporate culture is credited with numerous workplace benefits: higher employee satisfaction, boosted employee engagement, better new hires, and strong manager-employee relations. But establishing company culture can often be a vague and mysterious endeavor for HR. However, one thing is clear, “Ultimately, it is the CEO who determines the corporate culture, whether good or bad,” says John Bell at In short, a CEO can either greatly benefit or harm all of HR’s attempts to positively influence corporate culture.

What HR needs from the CEO
Before the working relationship between the CEO and HR can come to fruition, there are things both parties will need from the other. HR will need the CEO’s trust—trust that they will provide strategic value to the company. Oftentimes, CEOs becomes focused on business outcomes and they may see their workforce as an expense to mitigate. Because of this Elizabeth Ryan, business writer at Bloomberg says, “If you ask a CEO ‘What does your HR leader do?’ he or she is likely to say: ‘You got me. I just know I need to have one.’”

The truth is, an effective HR department can be the bridge for a CEO who is disconnected from their workforce. The insights they provide can alter business strategy to make it so the company simultaneously keeps its employees productive, while maintaining compliance with labor laws and fueling company growth.

What the CEO needs from HR
In the simplest terms, a CEO needs strategic, data-driven decisions from their HR department. Everything from employee engagement, to hiring, to training, and every other role of HR, should provide real strategic value to the company. With the automation of technology and traditional HR processes, HR has redefined itself and is now more strategic than ever before. For HR departments that continue to utilize traditional methods, the need to revamp processes and skills will become vital as the CEO recognizes the true potential HR has for growing the company.

A dynamic duo
When a CEO and an HR department establish a working relationship, the results are positive across the board. Every aspect of HR improves from hiring, engagement, onboarding, and training. In turn, a CEO can leave the office everyday knowing that their company is compliant with government laws and that they have the right workforce to build their vision.


About the Author

Andrew Larsen

Andrew is the Marketing Communications Specialist for Zuman, the one solution for HR, payroll, and benefits administration that supports growing small to midsize businesses.

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