Actions speak louder than words – especially in HR

While Nicholas Higgins’ opinion article (‘Why businesses need a ‘chief human capital officer’, Personnel Today, 21 November) is to be congratulated for highlighting the challenge for HR to raise its profile in the boardroom, I am concerned that the creation of a chief human capital officer (CHCO) position would be a rebadging exercise that could damage the HR function, rather than help it to gain gravitas and respect.

HR has had many opportunities to assert itself through effective human capital management (HCM) and measurement. The enactment of the Companies Act this year moves this debate sharply into focus, since both the finance director and managing director of the organisation are likely to look more closely at HCM and key people performance indicators. The opportunity now is for the HR director to work proactively with finance rather than spend time carving out a CHCO role, which is likely to encroach upon the space of, and thereby aggravate, the chief operating officer.

HR’s challenges are more deeply ingrained than a cosmetic ‘rebrand’ of our board position can address. HR is often perceived to be a silo function that does lots of morally good work, but isn’t perceived to make a quantifiable difference to the business’ performance. We need to lead change initiatives, not merely support them.

HR directors are uniquely positioned to work with finance directors to demonstrate how effective HCM can make a tangible difference to the company’s bottom-line performance. We need to focus on that and not get distracted.

We can call ourselves whatever we like, but it’s the results we deliver, not what title we give ourselves, that will determine our position on the board.

Laura Frith
Managing director, Reed Consulting

Comments are closed.