Who To Hire To Lead HR

Written by Jill Krumholz and Susan Kreeger

CEO’s often ask us to help them determine what they need in a Human Resources professional to lead their HR function and also how much it will cost them. This opens up a critical conversation and the most important question – What Are Your Goals and Objectives for HR in Your Organization?

According to HR thought leaders at Deloitte Consulting LLP, “Once designed primarily as a compliance function, today’s HR organization must be agile, business-integrated, data-driven, and deeply skilled in attracting, retaining and developing talent.” If you take the time initially to understand the role of HR and its value to your organization, you will be able to set the expectations and salary level that enable you to make the right hire.


Here are five questions you and your leadership team should ask in order to help you make the right decision and find the right person to lead HR in your organization:

1. Operations and Efficiency

What is the current state of your HR department’s administrative processes for tracking employee information?

Invest in Technology. A Human Resources Information System, sometimes offered through your payroll provider can support the management of employee data and take a lot of work off managers’ and HR’s hands. In addition, an employee self-service option frees HR up to do other things. Many organizations place this function in a shared services environment with HR, finance and IT, with a more administrative person managing the role.

By eliminating much of the transactional and administrative work, you can leverage the Human Resources department’s capacity to connect with larger business goals, and hire a Human Resources leader with the skills and experience to be a true business partner.

2. Compliance

Are you facing any immediate compliance issues with government agencies or potential legal threats?

A capable Human Resources professional must have strong knowledge of HR-related laws and regulations. An HR certification such as PHR, SPHR or SHRM will provide competence in compliance knowledge but there is no substitute for on the job experience. It is also critical for an HR professional to have confidence in applying that knowledge to real workplace situations. Your organization can further bolster compliance support as needed by using outside counsel with expertise in employment law to answer more difficult questions which might lead to litigation or government audits.

3. Recruitment

Are you and your managers spending a good portion of time recruiting without identifying and hiring the right employees?

Often times, managers with no training in sourcing or interviewing candidates are put in the position of hiring to fill open positions. An HR leader with strong recruiting skills knows the right networks for sourcing candidates and understands the importance of a well-structured interview process. S/he will also understand how to best evaluate less tangible qualities such as team commitment and interpersonal skills.

Consider hiring an HR professional with recruiting experience in the fields where your company most needs it and who understands the marketplace (i.e. IT, high volume or executive leadership recruiting.)

4. Employee Development and Retention

Are you investing in training and development of your employees in order to build the skills needed for a rapidly changing business environment?

Today’s rapid rate of change means that companies in a wide variety of industries need to develop innovative ways to hire, train and retain employees who can manage the tools for business growth. As Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School, discussed in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, business strategy today is a moving target without long term plans. There is a clear talent requirement for employees who can keep up with the evolving needs of the business.

Many HR professionals have demonstrated experience with managing employee development and supporting business environments with short term or project based work cycles. In addition, considering the individual needs of employees and their personal aspirations is critical to employee engagement in your organization. Through culture-building and managing employee benefits, a savvy HR professional can shape a business environment that employees invest in for the long-term. Hiring an HR professional with demonstrated experience in developing employees is critical skills to the health and growth of your business.

5. Performance Management

Does your organization reward the right employees for the right reasons in order to get the most out of your workforce and raise performance levels?

Most traditional performance management programs require an annual process consisting of completing forms, rating employees on a numerical scale, and scheduling formal conversations. Although the performance management process can have great value if implemented effectively, many managers and employees today fail to find value in the more traditional programs and engage in the process reluctantly.

As an alternative, Juniper Networks a Silicon Valley networking technology company, replaced its forced ranking system and annual review program with “conversation days.” These conversations occur throughout the year and address with employees their needs for improvement as well as career goals.

Hiring a Human Resources leader who has experience with implementing creative solutions for performance management that meet the needs of your organization would help to create a more performance driven culture.

Once you have addressed these fundamental questions about what you need from HR to move your organization forward, you will optimize the likelihood of finding the right person, at the right level, and with the right experience to fill the HR position with a valued business partner. The business environment today requires agility and flexibility in the strategy and implementation of plans and solutions. Human Resources, as with all of your critical business functions, must support that environment.