Adam Bryant, formerly of the New York Times, continues to conduct fascinating interviews with senior executives. He now posts them on LinkedIn on a regular basis. In a recent interview, he spoke with Jorge L. Figueredo of McKesson Corporation about the role of the Chief Human Resource Officer in an organization. Here's an excerpt that I found particularly illuminating:
Question: What would you say to a CHRO who called you looking for advice because they were frustrated that they weren’t getting the strategic role they were promised?
Answer: I would tell them, first off, you’re not alone. This is not a unique situation. Many CEOs say they want a strategic CHRO, but they often don’t think through what it really means. People should see this as an opportunity to educate and help your CEO to understand what it actually means. But whatever you do, do not whip out an article or book about it. You need to personalize the discussion to your company – not offer generic advice. Start by talking about the most important and critical people and organizational issues that you need to tackle as the CHRO in order to achieve the strategic goals.
Figueredo's comments offer an important reminder to all of us. In many cases, CEOs and other business leaders articulate a strategy, and they focus on allocating the appropriate financial resources to enact that strategy. A key question, though, is whether the organization has the right human resources in the right positions to be able to implement that strategy effectively. A good chief human resource officer can help inject that critical talent management question into the strategic planning conversation. Does the organization have the talent and capability to make that strategy work? Will new talent have to be acquired? What development must take place for the existing people in the organization? How might people have to be shifted into new roles? Many strategies fail not because of a lack of effective financial resource allocation, but because the human resource question has not been addressed effectively.