The Emerging HR Demands from the C-Suite

Among the questions Discussion Partner consultants are receiving from C-Suite clients is “what can I reasonably expect from HR?”  When we probe the current state of affairs the C-Suite answer is “not much”.


Discussion Partner Collaborative have been turning the tables somewhat and asking “what do you need”?  The below are the Top 10 responses:


  1. 1.      Cost Efficiency- The baseline expectation is to manage the HR function, inclusive of the costs of Employee Benefits, in a proactive manner
  2. 2.      Progressive Processes-Pointing to the elegance and comprehensiveness of the HR processes will earn a blank stare.  What our clients are telling us is they assume the processes are designed to be effective.  The 2 substantive questions we hear are 1) “do they work”, and 2) are they externally validated or “are we legends in our own mind”
  3. 3.      Increasing Employee Engagement-The pre-crisis studies indicated that the % of highly committed globally was 14%, in the US it was 20%.  Given the turbulence in the markets it is reasonable to assume that the number has gone down.  This is a consultant way of stating the obvious.  One of our CEO clients put it more succinctly “I don’t need HR surveys to tell me Engagement sucks……I want to know what we can do about it”?
  4. 4.      Leveraging Social Networks-Very few CEO’s spend their time surfing Facebook or Linkedin: but they know they exist and are “powerful”.  They want to know what can be done to leverage these tools to promote the enterprise.
  5. 5.      Demographic Shifts-A nameless client recently fired their CHRO because they  had “no plan to deal with impending retirements, and clue as to how we could fill the vacancies”.   The C-Suite is very aware as to how the Demographic shift is affecting their markets.   Yet if the most recent SHRM survey which indicated that approximately 70% of those surveyed were not aware and/or worried about this phenomenon.  It is somewhat like watching a car accident happen in slow motion.  The C-Suite does not believe HR is prepared to address this eventuality.
  6. 6.      Innovative Pay Practices-The crisis should focus on the need for a re-think of pay practices.  The old ways just will not work.   For example it will be hard to motivate a Generation Y incumbent with an Incentive Stock Option Plan.   They do not plan their careers with a 5 year “vesting” horizon
  7. 7.      Rack and Stack-We in HR have elegant terms such as Succession Planning, Continuity Planning, etc. to describe how performance and potential are tracked.  For those in the C-Suite it is more fundamental, they want to know, “do we know who our best and worse people are and what are we doing to address both extremes from a program point of view”? Moreover they want to know how the B Players are being dealt with in such a manner as to increase engagement
  8. 8.      Competencies-This is a trying conversation to have with the C-Suite regardless of what words we use, it appears any discussion of the topic is a cure for insomnia.  The feedback we have received is that there is a need to reduce all of the plotting, surveys, tests and the like to the bare essence of a solution, “what are we doing to improve the employees performance while improving their commitment to the enterprise”?  DPC would actively encourage a job security posture of what as HR professionals your going to do vs. confuse the issue with the facts by articulating the determinant issues
  9. 9.      Retention-The recent HBS research that indicated that approximately 20% of those designated “high potentials” have transitioned during the crisis should give HR a message that the Retention posture which had been deteriorating before the crisis will only be further complicated by the anticipated decline in Engagement and shifting Demographics

10.  Measurement-Dr. John Boudreau’s recent book, Beyond HR, pointed out that a strategically useful “dashboard” remains elusive for the function.   C-Suite clients would concur.   With all that is going on, be advised HR that the creation of a meaningful way of keeping score is now a necessity


It is a great time to be in HR!  It is now obvious that the function is essential to promote enterprise viability. Yet we should be mindful of Einstein’s definition of Insanity “Continuing to do the same things in anticipation of a different result”.


One Response

  1. Tom:
    Excelent article! I could not agree more HR has a key and different role to play….in our Latin world the HR challenge is even bigger …professionaly I believe there are very few c-levels in my country who would demand or expect such functions from HR.

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