The New Role for HR Leaders: A True Partner to the CEO

The New Role for HR Leaders: A True Partner to the CEO

HR should be looked at by the CEO with similar importance as corporate finance and the HR leader should be a true partner to the CEO.

They should help the CEO build and assign talent in order to fully execute on the company’s strategies. Managing people is just as important as managing finances. By having a clear understanding of the company’s core values and culture HR leaders can ensure that it is well portrayed by employees. In addition, they need to be an exemplary leader, have strong business acumen, communication skills and have a sound understanding of business strategy.

If HR leaders are too busy dealing with administrative tasks they may not have a deep understanding of the business. It is the CEO that needs to ensure that they remove and prevent barriers for HR leaders in order to become true strategic partners that untap the full potential of the company and its people. The CEO needs to have clear expectations and ensure that they share an understanding with the HR leader of desired outcomes.

The objective is to have the HR leader drive similar value as a CFO rather than playing a support role. The HR leader should be involved in key decisions as opposed to implementing decisions that are already made. The business will benefit from better management that considers the human factors and implications.

What you should look for when you are hiring a Human Resources leader

Strategic Partner

HR leaders need to have the skillset and communication abilities to have a seat at the leadership table. HR leaders need to have a clear, confident and impactful voice at the table. Today, business acumen and strategic thinking are core competencies for HR leaders. They must have the ability to become trusted counsel for the CEO for strategic planning to ensure proper resource allocation to execute strategies and achieve business objectives. HR leaders are expected to develop robust people plans aligned with the business strategy.


One of the major priorities in human resources is an increased focus on data. 48% of HR professionals said their organizations plan to invest in people analytics software over the next three years according to a recent study by HR Open Source.

Data analytics can be used by HR leaders to increase productivity and profitability for companies. Companies can realize benefits like decreased time to hire, predicting hiring needs, employee satisfaction and more with data-driven HR leaders.

Ability to Diagnose Problems

HR leaders are in a position to pinpoint precisely why an organization might not be performing well or meeting its goals.

Harvard Business Review suggests that HR leaders should be well integrated with the CEO and CFO to examine the causes of challenges and setbacks, because most problems are people related. Looking beyond obvious external factors and to link the numbers with insights into the company’s social system—how people work together. By diagnosing systemic issues and activities causing bottlenecks or unnecessary friction and offering solutions can truly prevent disconnects in the workforce and improve working relationships between departments and people.

Marketing Mindset

HR leaders need to proactively help find and hire industry stars – not simply put up job posts when needed. HR leaders will not be successful, nor add enough value, by simply filling open positions. HR leaders must use marketing and branding strategies to attract top industry talent. The continuous need to nurture relationships in the recruiting process is very similar to a sales process. Successful HR leaders will embrace this process and add value if they have a marketing mindset.


HR leaders need to be able to sell the story of their organizations to potential candidates. Being able to tell the story of working at the organization in a relatable manner is essential. From the messaging in a job description, to career site about sections, the story needs to be compelling and consistent. The unemployment rate is so low in today’s economy that it takes a compelling story to attract a candidate who is currently employed elsewhere.


Leadership abilities for HR leaders need to be built on collaboration and influence rather than command and control.

HR leaders constantly advise a wide variety of audiences including employees, leadership team members and candidates in the marketplace. HR leaders need strong strategic leadership and communication skills due to the collaboration with fellow leaders. HR leaders should continuously identify key areas of improvement to move the business and people forward.

Ability to Engage

The HR leader should take the lead to engage and measure employee satisfaction. The HR leader should train and provide feedback to managers who may not have the critical skills needed to keep their employees and teams engaged. They also have a key role in defining and co-creating the organizational culture with the executive leadership team and promote a culture that aligns with the business strategy.