Arguably, the most strategic question ever asked of HR!!

Or, not, you decide.

But regardless it is worth thinking about and is quite an affirming scenario for my fellow HR and HR technology industry colleagues.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to facilitate a panel discussion of some top corporate executives relating to their expectations of HR’s role in their organization.

We got to talking about what is an example of a truly “strategic” issue, or question.

To the panelists (of which there were 4 or 5), I happen to ask, “as President (or CEO) of a large corporation (they all were) can you give us an example of a recent strategic issue you were faced with? In other words – what was a recent concern, that you as President / CEO keeps you, or kept you, awake at night?

I will never forget the response from the President (at the time) of a Fortune 100 – Midwest based “industry giant”.

Are you ready? – Here is the MOST strategic question asked by a CEO/President.

The simple question:

“What country do we (the company) go into next? And what do we do there?”

That’s it. Simple. Word for word. Precisely stated. It is as strategic as you can get, in my humble opinion.

How it was then resolved is telling, fascinating and affirming to my fellow HR and HRT colleagues and myself in attendance and since that time.

So, what was done to get some kind of answer?

The CEO (no dummy ) created a Committee to provide him with at least 2 options.

And here is the key – he appointed the CHIEF HR OFFICER (CHRO) to head the committee and to appoint the other members.

Yes, the CHRO!

The CEO recognized that the people in his whole organization, the talent pipeline, their competencies, their familiarity with differing cultures, etc. would be a key component of any successful undertaking for the company, anywhere in the world.

The CHRO (no dummy herself) in turn recognized the need for Legal, 0perations, IT, Finance, Marketing and other HR representatives and thus rounded out the committee (If I recall, 6 -8 members). They were given 4 months to make their recommendation to the CEO.

The Committee published their opinion suggesting 2 countries and 4 product delivery options.

Then the Executive Committee chimed in.

And thus, in 2014 – 2015, a new plant was operating in (______) – the country does not matter.

What does matter, the point of my writing this day, is that the CHRO was given the lead. The CHRO then selected the needed expertise. Then using available data and metrics from HRMS, Financial and Operations systems and strong input about country regulations and trans-border data transfer and privacy issues, a strategic and critically important decision was made and executed based on “Information”.

How’s that for maintaining the proverbial “seat at the table” !

Yes, the CHRO, the Chief HR Officer, spearheaded the effort.

That alone is strategically wonderful.

We can all hope that we have, in our work lives, an open minded, thoughtful, group of senior executives who realize the day to day importance of the company’s Human Resource and its Management, and who will count on Human Resources to provide “information” (not just data reports) – value added information on which to base critical decisions upon.


February 2015