HR directors must report in to the chief executive if they are going to have any part in creating a high-performance company, according to the senior vice-president for global HR at American Express.
Speaking at the annual talent management and leadership development conference in Barcelona earlier this week, Gabriella Giglio said HR professionals need to "take their place at the table from the very beginning", speaking in business terms that everyone in the organisation can understand.
Giglio said that the HR function at American Express now has a close relationship with the chief executive Ken Chenault, but that it had "learned the hard way" when it came to aligning HR with business needs.
"HR used to be about getting your hands dirty, about keeping the company out of jail," she told delegates. "When our new CEO came on board, he believed HR should play a part in both the talent agenda and the business agenda."
In practice, this happens by ensuring the CEO sits through all talent assessments from vice-president level and above. He has also helped develop the company's talent identification and retention processes.
“Now we make sure we have a place at the table - we don't ask permission anymore," Giglio said. "We are business people who happen to have HR expertise."