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How to get HR valued by the CEO

14 Apr 2016 - Blog

How to get HR valued by the CEO



A recent survey of 1250 HR leaders undertaken by Harvey Nash, showed that 66% of senior HR people believe the CEO undervalues the top HR leader compared to, say, the CIO or CFO.

According to Jeff Schwartz, principal at Deloitte Consulting;

“CEOs are interested in revenue growth, profitability, innovation and the ability to retain customers…they are interested in business and talent issues, but not HR issues (in themselves).”

Rather disparagingly, research from Henley Business school, revealed CEO attitudes such as;

“HR has the will to work on the strategic but to be honest they spend 70–80% on operational stuff.”

So how can HR leaders ensure they are valued as strategic partners?

As technology makes analytics as accessible now to HR as to Finance, IT and Marketing, being able to connect HR data to the organisation agenda helps HR become a high business impact function. Here are a couple of examples that may help:

1. Showing how employee survey data drives business outcomes that your CEO cares about

Your employee survey will give you a ton of data. Your provider should be able to carry out linkage analysis between the survey outputs and your broader organisation data. This can show you which people issues are key drivers of business outcomes such as revenue growth, profitability and customer satisfaction in your organisation. From this, you can pinpoint where change efforts will reap most rewards.
It also supports a strong business case for regularly assessing employee engagement.

Examples from People Insight’s research

When running our clients’ employee surveys, we’ve gone further than just descriptive reporting, and provided analysis that links engagement metrics to business outcomes:
In a large hospitality client, sites with higher scores for the following had upper quartile customer NPS:

  • customer focus
  • fair & respectful line managers
  • good teamworking

So to achieve high NPS, the client looked to work on these 3 items.

In a multi-site retailer, sites with managers who:

  • coached and gave feedback
  • were fair & respectful to staff
  • created a sense of career opportunity

were twice as likely to belong to the high profit group. So to join the high profit group, the client worked on these 3 items.

2. Deeper investigation into your CEO’s priorities

In this example from Forbes, the HR team responsible for an employee survey made sure they understood what was important to the CEO, then was able to incorporate finding our about these these clear challenges & goals in the survey, and report back on it.
His priority concern was that with rapid growth, the organisation was losing their boldness and innovativeness.
The employee survey revealed a huge gap between employees’ belief that the organisation needed innovation, and that they were rewarded for innovation – especially in some divisions.
Open text questions also revealed, worryingly that ‘compliance’ was perceived to be valued as a personal characteristic.

It was clear for the CEO to see that approaches to reward innovation (prioritised urgently in some divisions rather than others), and building a culture of risk taking, or entrepreneurial were needed.


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