CEO with HR Background and Experience

Why are companies only now talking about their human resources? In part, government legislation in areas such as affirmative action forces management to pay closer attention to how employees are hired and promoted or face expensive lawsuits. But Andrew Sherwood, senior partner with the Goodrich and Sherwood Company, maintains it is also a corporate response to the post-Depression work ethic.

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“In years before,” he reasons, “companies could ignore the human resource because they were making prof¬its. There was a greater work ethic due to the Depression. Today, employees under 50 don’t remember going hungry. Management wonders why it is paying people more and they are working less. Unions haven’t answered the question. It isn’t a money or mechanical issue. It’s a people issue.”

Sherwood, like Brinkerhoff, believes that quite naturally training and development people are among those best able to grapple with the complex “people issues” now surfacing in the workplace. But he sees training/HRD itself remaining a middle management position. “Human resources development has be¬come a top management tool,” he acknowledges.

“But there are functional areas within the company, like accountant and training director, that in the end result in a middle management job. You don’t make a training director an executive vice-president. Where the job leads into the top level is where HRD becomes important as an information tool for senior management.”

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He says training managers who want to move up will typically get into areas such as manpower development, organization development, wage and salary, EEO constantly broadening their know-how without becoming trapped in administrative detail. They will focus on planning and on how to translate people management skills into bottom-line company results.

“One of the reasons personnel and human resources professionals have not been recognized before is that they didn’t have a way to bring the work they did to the bottom line,” says Sherwood. “Even labor negotiations were at best a negative task.

You never could really improve the company’s position; you merely minimized losses. Now if you conduct a seminar on improving life goals and you see productivity go up 40%, or if you develop a system to promote or fire employees without demoralizing their co-workers, then you have a hard-core measure of success.”

No road to the top

Given the ever-rising status of human resources executives, what should we make of their designs on the president’s chair? The report by Heidrick and Struggles indicates about 20% of current chief personnel executives are poised for this or other top-line management positions. Those people, however, typically have 10 or more years of background in areas outside human resources— marketing or finance for instance.

Executive recruiters report little demand for CEOs with personnel or HRD experience. Finance and market¬ing will continue to be the primary sources of presidential material, most predict. “I don’t see any change in the requirements for president,” says Lohnes.

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“Instead, the value being placed on the human resources position will be directly rewarded with in¬creased compensation, so even if you can’t be president you will be well-paid.”

The headhunters generally give two reasons for this:

• Human resources, Respite the new bottom-line focus, is still too much of a specialty requiring talents that can’t usually be applied to a CEO’s duties.
• The top-level human resources exec who competes for the president’s chair will have problems winning support for management development and reorganization plans from fellow workers.

As for the tendency in some companies to rotate line managers into human resources for “broadening experience,” some executive recruiters flatly predict the practice will end. As they tell it, human resources executives of the future will walk a delicate tightrope: innovative and upwardly mobile, but blind to the lure of the presidency.

“Those firms which have unwittingly used the human resources post to give a marketing or financial person a little broadening will ultimately stop because the demands of the profession will become too great,” predicts Kenny. “At the same time, one of the most destructive things a CPO can do today is to toss his hat in the presidential ring. It’s saying, ‘You’ve asked me who should be president, and I think the best choice is me.’ ”

By : Elaine. Training Magazine.

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