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The Role of HR in a Company, According to CEOs

What the CEO Wants from HR

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of 15 CEO’s last month. The topic was “Developing a High-Performance Culture” and our tag line was “It’s not all about money.” If you’ve worked in HR for any number of years, you’re probably familiar with the content I covered. I has to do with creating a culture where employees feel respected. HR has a big role to play in that.

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Employees want challenging, exciting work and they want to work for bosses who are skilled in managing people and give appropriate praise and recognition. We also visited the topic of compensation from the perspective of it not being how much you reward people as much as it’s about how you reward people. It was a great session and I think (and hope) the group got some interesting tidbits.

But, what was most interesting from my perspective is that I had about ten minutes to ask this group of CEO’s from industries such as banking, real estate management, higher education, national associations and technology what they wanted from HR.

What Is the Role of HR in a Company?

So, I asked them, “What do you want from your HR team?” “What would earn them the coveted seat at the table”? I loved the CEO who immediately chimed in with “I want HR to read my mind”. To which his colleagues immediately laughed and began to joke with him about “are you sure that’s what you want”. All joking aside, he had a legitimate point. Here are the rest of the pointers from the CEO networking group on what they want from HR.

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I want HR to speak my language. We’ve all heard over and over how we need to be business-savvy and speak the “language of business.” One CEO said it perfectly. He said “Sometimes, I feel like I’m speaking a different language to my HR person. I want to feel like what I’m saying is making sense and that they know what to do with it.” He then went on to acknowledge that sometimes it’s hard for his HR people because he isn’t always the best at articulating his thoughts. But, it helps when they learn how he thinks and what is on his mind so that he has less explaining to do.

I need HR to think for me. The point this CEO was making was that his brain doesn’t necessarily think about the critical employee issues the same way that HR does. So, he needs HR to be thinking about things that aren’t part of his daily routine. He wants HR to take that leadership role and, in most cases, take care of these issues so he can focus on the business.

I want HR to help me solve my problems. Many of the executives talked about current challenges in retaining staff and getting qualified staff on board. One gentleman in particular said that the thing that keeps him up at night is knowing that he’ll have enough of the specialized talent that he needs to support the incredible growth the company is experiencing. He wants to know that his HR people are doing everything they can to solve this problem with him.

I want HR to keep me out of trouble. You heard it here first. The CEO wants you to warn them before they make a move that could land them on the witness stand. We joked about the right way and the wrong way to tell the CEO that they is headed for trouble. We agreed that “you can’t do that” is probably not the right approach. But, the group overwhelming agreed that a loud, stern warning would be appropriate. One CEO joked, “Sometimes you have to yell, but I’ll hear you.”

I am very thankful for the first hand opportunity to hear what senior leadership wants from HR. I think HR can benefit from asking this same question of their executive team. You might be surprised by what you hear – and you may have an opportunity to view your own job in new light.

I’m very thankful to Walter Donald and the Executive Network ( for the opportunity to teach and learn with a great group of CEO’s. It’s wonderful to have such an incredible opportunity.


Stacey Carroll
Director of Customer Service & Education

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swati aggarwal
swati aggarwal

want to do job in hr department only.

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