SmartRecruiters Blog

HR’s Role in the Boardroom

The relationship between human resources and corporate executives has always been strained, but it is getting better. If you aren’t familiar, here is the backstory, HR has long since lobbied for more buy-in and respect from corporate executives, and we call them C-Suite Executives. C-Suite because all of the chiefs get to meet in the boardroom suite; CFO, CEO, COO, and CMO but how often have you heard of a CHRO? Odds are not too often. I’ve been in HR for a long time and I can only think of two.
HR boardroom

The “Seat at the Table,” it may sound like a cliché but regardless of what anyone says, HR wants that invite into the boardroom. I fear that my underwhelming experiences in the boardroom are like most HR practitioners – underwhelming. I remember my HR Manager would get invited into the boardroom but she was not brought into the planning aspects of new workplace initiatives.

When she attended the executive meetings, they went something like this, “Hey Jane, can you make sure everybody gets trained on this?” That was the extent of it, I know because after a while my manager didn’t like going to the meetings and she would send one of us on the HR team as a proxy.

She would prep us by saying, “All they are going to do is ask you if we can train everyone or if someone has screwed-up, they will ask you if that person was properly trained, in any case all you have to say is ‘Yes.'” I went to a few of those meetings on her behalf and sadly she was right – all I said was, “Yes.” That’s not a very effective way of using HR.

Ideally, the HR’s role in the boardroom should be just as important as the Chief Financial Officer, Marketing Officer and Operations Officer. If you look around at some of the best companies today, they have used their HR department as strategic partners. I’ve talked about how Ford Motor Company and Zappos! partnered with HR to shape company culture and drive business. Well, have you heard about GM’s new CEO Mary Barra? She has a strong HR background. I’d think she she would invite HR in the boardroom. SmartRecruiters CEO Jerome Ternynck also thinks HR’s role will grow in the boardroom, as he said in this Cornell video:

Why is it so important to include HR in corporate initiatives? Well from a procedural standpoint, HR manages a company’s most valuable asset, people. Recruiting. Talent management. These are core competencies of your business. HR can also help develop the business’ core competencies, vision and mission. HR should work with marketing to ensure all brand messages are communicated in the job ads, screening and communications. And finally HR should work with Finance and Legal to focus on cost. Yes! Legal. I have found that HR professionals who are savvy with legal compliance tend to implement HR policies which are sound and mitigate legal risks, exposure and saves lots of money.

To uncover how more HR pros can enter the boardroom I’ve reached out a HR Regional Manager in Texas:

“What I have found works in the boardroom is knowing the business, being able to speak to the business, and how the HR interventions being evaluated can impact the organization by an increased percentage in return of revenue, engagement, talent growth, etc. There has to be a relation to knowing what HR is driving which can impact leadership and results. Execution is key and being able to drive it is crucial. Everything comes down to dollar and cents. You have to quantify and defend your plans. Furthermore, brush up on your negotiation and selling skills, as you will need them to get what you want.”

Human resource professionals bring a valuable perspective to the boardroom; you can’t have a boardroom that understands all areas of your business without understanding your people.


chris fieldsChris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who also helps job seekers write great resumes and blogs. His work can be found at & Photo Credit Manhattan Loft.

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Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work & ResumeCrusade.