Bosses urged to gain people skills by working in HR

Chief executives and senior managers should serve a stint in the HR department to make them fully aware of people issues, business experts have said.

Nick Holley, an associate at Henley Business School, told Personnel Today that assigning high-potential employees to short stints in the HR department would benefit business productivity. Traditionally, future company leaders gain experience in the finance department alone, but many miss out on best practice in people management, he said.

“Putting high-potentials through HR departments as part of their career progression would give eventual CEOs or senior managers a better sense of the people agenda,” he said. “It would also lend credibility to the HR department once the high-potentials get to more senior roles, and also be a cost-effective strategy with great benefits.”

Holley cited Australian food manufacturing firm Masterfoods, which puts its senior directors through placements in the HR department as part of their career development. Supermarket retailer Sainsbury’s also sends senior leaders on tours of duty to its personnel department for up to two years to ensure they have a well-rounded approach to people management.

Jackie Orme, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, agreed that moving talented staff through HR would give immeasurable benefits to the organisation.

“There is huge value in having CEOs or senior management understanding the people aspect of an organisation in a way that allows them to unlock the competitive advantage their people bring, and this ties in with the CIPD’s goal of bringing the best and brightest closer into the profession,” she said.

Last month experts warned that HR must ensure it remains influential in the business by focusing on long-term goals despite the recession.

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