5 Questions Every CEO Should Ask HR
February 1, 2019
There is nothing in any organization that is accomplished without its people. The talent at your company is the determining source of revenue, growth and brand reputation. And in order to ensure success, investing in and focusing on talent is crucial.
This focus starts with the C-suite. As an executive, you should partner with your HR team in order to improve performance. More specifically, it's important to make sure that all of the work being done in your organization is, in fact, moving the business forward. If not, you're throwing money down the drain.
How can CEOs and other executives make sure that talent strategy is aligned with business strategy? Here, five questions every CEO should ask HR when a new performance management program or solution is proposed.
1) How will this program impact our bottom line?
This question may cause HR to stumble at first, but keep pressing. If you don't receive a reasonable answer, ask them to think about it and come back to you with more information on how the program will help increase revenue, improve market share or reduce expenses.
There is an abundance of research that links improved human performance to improved business results. With a few Google queries, HR should be able to draw a clear line between what the program requires and how it will impact the business.
2) Why did you design the program as you did?
While better human performance logically leads to better business results, the same programs won't work for every company. If HR designed the program based on "best practices" from other organizations, ask them why it also makes sense for your organization.
HR programs are inherently time-consuming for management, so you should firmly understand why each element of the program is time well spent. For example, performance management programs typically consist of setting goals, creating a structured process that provides feedback on goal progress and then iterating on these goals. You should talk with HR about their timeline for this process to ensure that the level of effort correlates with level of results. Does it make sense to set goals only once a year, or should you do once a quarter?
3) What will be required of our organization's leaders to make this program work, and do they have the skills to execute it?
It takes time and great communications skills for leaders to effectively engage with their employees, set personalized expectations and provide regular feedback. If the goal of your program is to improve performance, then frequent, two-way dialogue is really important. Leaders need to understand what is expected of them, and be sufficiently comfortable facilitating that dialogue.
4) What can I do to help?
In order to improve performance, your active sponsorship is absolutely critical. You have to set the tone for operational leaders and stay as close to the process as possible (particularly in the beginning) to provide the little nudges to recalcitrant leaders, ask for data and hold everyone accountable. Your participation will give more credibility to HR and allow them to run the show with company-wide respect as the program evolves.
5) How did it work?
Last but not least, don't expect perfection (or anything remotely close) on the first round. Your organization is likely in the "Kindergarten" phase of strategic HR, and has a lot to learn as an organization, individual leaders and employees. Debriefing your process in an open and candid way allows you to learn what worked, what didn't and make adjustments accordingly.