HR Management, HR News & Trends

Want to Be Seen as Strategic? Maybe It’s Time HR Looked to the CFO

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HR professionals worry a lot about whether their CEO thinks they are strategic business leaders.

Turns out it isn’t the CEO that HR professionals need to worry about. It’s the CFO.

This is according to global survey data collected from three Oracle/IBM sponsored research reports produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit in April and May 2012. CEOs made up 57 percent and CFOs made up 43 percent of the 235 respondents.

These aren’t great numbers for HR

The resulting infographic is one of the more readable and useful ones of its type that I’ve seen. Among the data points:

  • 80 percent of CEOs and CFOs want the head of HR to be key in their company’s strategy planning.
  • Only 38 percent of those CEOs and CFOS say that is currently the case.
  • Only 10 percent say the head of HR is “extremely” key in strategic planning right now.
  • Only 37 percent of CEOs and CFOs say their relationship with the head of HR is “close and trustful.”
  • Just 28 percent of CEOs and CFOs say their relationship with the head of HR is among their “most valued” professional relationships.

But here are the real zingers:oracle-driving-hr-forward-infographic-march-2013

Does the CFO support the HR chief?

Ouch!

But here’s the real irony: CFOs are more confident about HR’s understanding the needs of the business than they are about the business of HR! There is low confidence by CFOs that HR can lead the HR function, can evaluate employee performance, or can identify and recruit key talent.

That’s not good news – especially since CFOs spend significantly more time with CEOs than CHROs do. I wonder what the CFO and CEO are talking about with regard to HR? Is the CFO supporting the CHRO?

Given this survey data, I wonder.

Maybe CEOs aren’t HR’s biggest challenge after all. Maybe CFOs are the ones toward whom HR professionals should be aiming their strategic attention. Maybe instead of pining after furniture, HR should be pining after spreadsheets!

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.

For more than 25 years, China Gorman has held strategic business leadership roles in the human capital management sector. She's currently the CEO for Great Place to Work, a company dedicated to improving society by helping companies create better workplaces. Well known for her tenure as Chief Operating Officer and interim CEO of SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management), China also held the posts of President of DBM North America, and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, the global consulting division of Adecco, which became the performance leader in its industry under her leadership. Read her blog at ChinaGorman.com, and contact her at china@chinagorman.com.
  • Caroline McClure – ScoutRock

    Great article, China; thank you. One of the best complements I ever received was from the CFO at the company where I ran ETA. When someone referred to us as human resources, the CFO turned to me and said incredulously: “You guys don’t think of yourselves as part of HR do you?” Clearly, he didn’t.

    I would say that if HR wants to be SEEN as strategic, we need to BE strategic, start thinking more like CFOs, and be better stewards of company resources, both human and otherwise; we need to become business facilitators rather than business police.

  • Aaro Ollikainen

    A long time ago I made a survey on HR functions in Finnish large corporations. The sample included both CEOs and CHROs and interestingly the CEOs gave a significantly more positive rating on HR processes and practices than the HR representatives. Could there be a general tendency towards self-criticism among human resources professionals?