month, Personnel Today and TMP Worldwide launches the Boardroom HR conference
in Birmingham. To whet the appetite of delegates and get the debate started,
Professor Amin Rajan presents preliminary findings from research based on
interviews with chief executives which turns a lot of assumptions about
boardroom HR priorities upside down
Chief executives are often accused of not having a clear business strategy
to which their HR directors can align their activities. That may well be so.
But from a forthcoming study, one thing is very clear – most CEOs do know what
they want from HR. Typical responses include:
– "Help me build a global organisation"
– "Make our business model work"
– "Enhance shareholder value"
– "Raise the performance bar"
– "Attract and retain the best talent"
– "Leverage knowledge"
– "Promote creativity and innovation"
– "Focus employees on customers"
– "Get the basics right"
The above list is indicative, not definitive. But it is enough for us to
draw the three main factors on the CEO wish list.
To start with, like everyone else, CEOs have their dreams and nightmares.
These are the "big issues" that keep them awake at night. Typical
examples include market downturn, drop in share prices, mergers and
acquisitions, organisational change, loss of key personnel, to name but a few.
These concerns are so widespread that personal insecurity – manifested by
fear of failure and loss of office – is a major factor in life at the top.
There is a clear expectation that HR should be involved in the design and
implementation of the strategy in these and other areas. However, there is also
a perception out there that this happens in a minority of cases. In a majority,
however, HR is perceived as carrying the proverbial bucket behind the circus
Whether this perception is justified is open to debate. On the positive
side, though, it is clear that the extent of HR’s involvement in big issues is
directly related to the personal credibility of senior HR professionals. They
have got into the driving seat by example and achievement. Not only are they
good at their craft, but they have sound business awareness backed by a mastery
of influencing skills. Thus, being in HR is important – but it is even more
important to have the willingness and ability to make an impact.
The second requirement identified by CEOs is shareholder value. In companies
of all sizes, there is a clear recognition that their market value is the sum
of "book value" plus intangible assets. Book value, of course,
relates to all the physical and financial assets that can be quantified.
Intangibles, on the other hand, are more observable than measurable.
Specifically, they cover four classes of assets:
– Market assets, eg customer loyalty, company brand
– Intellectual property, eg patents, trademarks, design rights
– Cultural assets, eg can-do mentality, transformational leadership and
– Physical assets, eg management process, reward systems
In each of these categories, CEOs see an added value role for HR who can
help to develop the essential shock-absorbers in a climate of change while
enhancing overall corporate capability. In short, many CEOs perceive a growing
convergence between HR and organisational development.
The final area covers the day-to-day bread and butter issues: the basics of
people management. These are viewed as being akin to a plumbing system. When it
functions effectively, nobody notices it. When it doesn’t, all hell is let
loose. On CEOs’ reckoning, HR has come a long way in the past 10 years in
mastering the operational issues, working far better alongside line managers.
Of course, there are tensions in their relationships, but these are more
creative than destructive in the majority of our sample.
To sum up, when asked what strategic HR meant to him, one CEO was rather
graphic, "I’m in business to kill or destroy my competitors. What can HR
do to help me accomplish this historic mission?" In the aftermath of last
week’s terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, such sentiments may be put on
hold. But it remains the case that in today’s dog-eat-dog culture, few CEOs
care about regular headline-grabbing subjects like skills shortages, flexible
working and employee diversity. That is not because they are irrelevant, but
because they are not central to the management of two key imperatives in
today’s unforgiving marketplace – change and performance.
Message from the editor
If you have not already registered
for the Boardroom HR event, I strongly recommend that you consider doing so
now. For some years, feedback from senior HR people has suggested that while
the profession is well served by conferences covering niche subjects, typically
employment law, there has been no event that satisfactorily enables those at
boardroom level or equivalent to debate the issues that take top priority in
their own organisations.
The Boardroom HR event, together with the launch of Boardroom
HR magazine next month, are designed to address the concerns of those of you at
the top of the HR profession, whether those concerns relate to strategic issues
in your organisations or to the challenge of developing your role, influence
and career potential.
A note on the launch of Boardroom HR magazine: this does not
mean that Personnel Today will ignore the challenges facing senior HR people.
Rest assured, we will continue to increase our focus on senior issues in the
way that many of you will recognise we have done over the last couple of years.
Why should you consider registering for the Boardroom HR
conference? One reason is that we already have an impressive list of HR
directors in large organisations on the delegate list and the conference has
been designed so that there will be plenty of opportunities to network and compare
notes with your peers in HR. Great effort has been put into organising a very
different experience to the standard HR conference, and we have employed the
Tom Peters Group to ensure that the conference is fully interactive rather than
a series of presentations followed by brief Q&A sessions.
There are still a few places left and we are offering them at
the early booking rate. I hope to meet many of you at the event.
Noel O’Reilly, Editor, Personnel Today
Boardroom HR – the key event for
senior HR people
1-2 October 2001
International Convention Centre Birmingham
Organised by Personnel Today and TMP Worldwide
An opportunity to spend two days exchanging
experiences with top level HR professionals and to focus on the core boardroom
HR priorities of:
– Developing and implementing HR
– Influencing both the board and the business
– Measuring the effectiveness of the HR contribution
Group HR director, Tesco Stores
A discussion of how the people strategies of a retail business
are kept to the fore at board level and an insight into the accompanying
Earning boardroom space – using leadership and a business
focused approach to influence your organisation.
Deputy director, Cranfield School of Management
Provocative views on resourcing and outsourcing based on
in-depth international research and how these impact on HR in the business
Vice-president for HR, EMEA
Oracle Corporation UK
How HR professionals can have high impact in a
technology-driven business world.
Senior partner, Personnel Works
Practical advice on how HR’s contribution can be measured in
cash terms and how it can influence the board.
Former group HR director, BP
Getting the most from outsourced HR – how to partner with your
provider for the most effective business results
Managing director, Rolls-Royce Combustion Systems
Credible HR contribution – a line manager’s perspective.
An innovative format
Boardroom HR is an intensive two-day experience which will
leave you inspired to drive change in your organisation and equip you with the
tactics and tools to really deliver. You will be able to challenge the speakers
and compare experiences and issues with your peers from other organisations.
The event has an innovative format which will give you a chance to:
– Shape the content
so that it meets your needs
– Take part in break-out sessions
with other senior HR leaders to solve real business issues
– Benefit from the latest technology
in the UK’s top convention centre