“Our people are our most important asset”
— So says almost every CEO.
Yet most companies do not live up to this statement.
How do I know that most companies do not live up to this statement? I hear this from top HR Leaders every week. (Complaint No. 1)
Do you want to know what I else HR Leaders grumble about?
They complain when executives without HR experience become CHRO or Chief People Officer. Nothing makes the ambitious HR Leader that is in line for the top job more frustrated than when they get passed over by someone that comes from the business and ‘knows nothing about HR’. (Complaint No. 2)
Complaint No. 1 is valid. Forward looking HR Leaders that want Complaint No.1 to disappear need to embrace No. 2.
Let’s take a look at this real-life situation from the new this week.
Apple’s Head of Retail retired, and the role was given to the Head of HR in addition to her current role. Now Dierdre O’Brien is Head of Retail + People at Apple. Dierdre is not an HR lifer – she has cycled through business leadership roles and is continuing on the path beyond HR. When she becomes CEO one day, wouldn’t you want her as your CEO?
One of today’s most iconic CEOs is Mary Barra of General Motors. She too spent time in HR in a senior leadership capacity. This has helped her not only understand the various facets of the business that she has cycled through during her career, she is now leading the dynamic people based changes and disrupting the transportation business in the process.
These are just some of the situations where business leaders are cycling through HR on their way to the top.
The pessimist can look at situations where the Head of People role goes to an ‘outsider’ from the business and says ‘this is not good for the company’.
An optimist (count me in here) looks at this and says that the best way to get a future CEO to truly understand that people are a company’s most important asset is for them to have an opportunity to do so.
My challenge to HR Leaders: Embrace the opportunity to have your business leaders get hands on HR experience. If you really care about the people and know that if is through people that your business will succeed, take the opportunity to support these business leaders become better People leaders.