We set up the problem a few days ago: that HR is in danger of falling into irrelevance. (See How to save HR — Introduction.) The first step for saving HR is to raise its altitude — to "C" level.
Most companies have a handful of executives who report directly to the CEO: the Chief Operating Officer, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Information Officer, the Chief Marketing Officer, and the Chief Legal Officer (usually called the General Counsel). But rare is the company that has its head of human resources sitting in the"C suite."
This makes no sense. Every company depends upon having the best people — the best talent — it possibly can to succeed. Without top talent, who actually does the operations, finances, technology, marketing, or legal stuff? Why do most companies relegate the recruiting and managing of talent to an administrative position that usually reports to the CFO? Even the term "human resources" — itself a euphemism for the drab "personnel" — demeans the role and its importance. HR professionals often decry not having "a seat at the table," and for good reason. Most companies fail to recognize the strategic role that HR should play.
Top business guru Tom Peters beats the drum for elevating HR to its rightful place in his excellent book Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age. (Click on its cover in the righthand column to learn more or buy it.) On page 256 of the hardcover edition, Tom advocates for changing the name of HR to "Talent Department." (Or even the slightly more exuberant "Seriously Cool People who Recruit & Develop Seriously Cool People.") He writes:
I have long believed that human resources people should sit at the Head Table. I'm a fan of HR. It is ... after all... an Age of Talent.
Problem: All too often "HR folks" are viewed (all too) correctly as "mechanics." Not as ... Master Architects ... who aim too ... Quarterback the Great War for Talent.
(Tom loves ellipses and capital letters nearly as much as he loves exclamation points.) Tom blames all this on a "failure of imagination." And he's right. You could do worse than to read Tom's chapter on Talent and implement half of his ideas for building HR into a strategic arm of the company, with a Chief Talent Officer reporting directly to the CEO. (Also, you should subscribe to his blog.)
Most companies say that their employees are their most important assets. If that's true, they should put the person in charge of developing them at the right altitude: at C level.