Why CIOs Should Seek a Strategic Partnership with HR Leaders

Steve Ginsburgh, SVP & HR, Universal Weather and Aviation
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Steve Ginsburgh, SVP & HR, Universal Weather and Aviation

As I departed this week from the Society for  Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 66th national conference, I couldn’t help but think about the 14,000 participants who were going back to their jobs with the typical post conference optimism about how they were going to make changes and make a real difference upon their return. In reality it would take no longer than 30 seconds to return to the reality of discouragement through the burden of the mundane. Why are these professionals and the other 270,000 members of this global organization constantly feeling demotivated? The theme  of the meeting was “Transform” which for most of the participants was the age old question of how do we become accepted as a key member of the leadership team. Recent publications have contained articles entitled “Why I Hate HR”, “Companies Say No to having an HR Department”, “Can HR Ever Really Be Trusted” and others like a recent Dilbert cartoon that derived humor from describing HR as refrigerator mold with language skills! No other profession in companies/organizations is treated with such disdain with only the Legal Department coming in a distant second.

Unfortunately, we have no one to blame but ourselves because more often than not we become comfortably uncomfortable with this ever spiraling, self-fulfilling prophecy. We allow ourselves to lose focus on what our brains have been trained to do and that is to grow and produce a return on the investment in human capital. Rather than pursuing the rewards of investing in human capital, we often regress back to the security of being perceived  s the “compliance police”and administrative service provider. It is a great fit for risk management and job security, but does not contribute to what senior leaders most want—financial success and growth of their businesses.

Longitudinal studies at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California have shown that companies/organizations are more effective when HR:

• Is a full business partner in developing the business strategy
•Spends more of its time on strategy than on auditing and controlling
• Makes use of information technology
• Drives change management
• Provides analytic support for business decisions
• Makes data-based talent decisions
• Integrates the human capital strategy with the business strategy

In light of these performance benchmarks, there is hope for the profession due to a number of new opportunities that are emerging from our relationships with CIOs and digital business technology colleagues. That hope comes from the combining of the new capabilities of HRIM systems and senior management’s need for better people data as well as HR’s needs to produce most of the outcomes described above. What that means is that the integration and implementation design of HRIM systems is by necessity going to require a stronger joint effort from both the CIO and CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). As evidenced above, systems need to be built to help leadership make more objective and evidence-based people decisions i.e. most qualified job candidates, high potential retention risks, capability and skill development priorities as well how what we know about our people relates to financial success as well customer satisfaction and several other business data, relationship opportunities.

What is needed from the CIO perspective to ensure the desired results are reached? The CIO can help his CHRO counterpart through the following:

• Understanding of the exact outcomes the CHRO has in mind
• Coaching the CHRO to most thoroughly plan for engaging in the project
• Offering talent from the DBT staff that increases the potential for a success
• Using expertise that helps to successfully execute the project
• Providing lessons learned from experience to avoid making wasteful mistakes throughout the project.

The CHRO in this relationship needs to provide four important elements to best support the CIO which are:

• Aligning the project and the HR team to the overall goals of the company/organization
• Making sure that the highest levels of HR capabilities is assigned full time to the project
• Ensuring that engagement and thus retention has been considered for all project members and that a direct system of rewards is structured to support people’s efforts in successfully completing the project
• Designing and implementing a training plan that is focused on changing behaviors to produce new skills as well as including practice and certification to prove that people are ready to implement the new tools.

"Integration and implementation design of HRIM systems is going to require, a stronger joint effort from both the CIO and CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer)"

So what happens to the “hating of HR” with the implementation of HRIM systems that contain both business and human capital focused data that yield predictive analytics to grow the business? HR should no longer be seen as the talent dumping ground and the jobs that anyone can do, and will now be transformed as key to strategic planning, critical to all people decisions and a value adding function though still accounted for in G&A. Also, it means that the CIO is critical to the investment in human capital for the entire organization and not just the DBT silo. Finally it should prepare, train and enable CHROs  and CIOs to take on business leadership roles outside of their typical HR and DBT silos.

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