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Selling Your Value to the New CEO

March 1, 1997
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Related Topics: Your HR Career, Featured Article
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The Dilemma:
As an HR director, you have sat on the company’s board of directors for five years. But after a recent merger, the new CEO changed the board and told you he wants you to focus primarily on administrative functions. Your presence on the board is no longer required. You know that HR is a strategic function. And you have proved its value to the company. How will you resell your value to the new CEO?

Readers Respond:
I’d begin by documenting the value of my presence on the company’s board of directors by enumerating the issues and discussions that have occurred at the board level over the past five years focusing directly on HR issues. I’d follow that with an attempt to forecast issues that’ll more than likely need to be addressed by the board over the next 12 to 18 months that’ll be similarly focused on HR—including an analysis of the extra energy it will cost the board if a representative of human resources isn’t a member.
James W. Smith, Assistant Superintendent
Manchester Community Schools
North Manchester, Indiana

I’d say to the new CEO: "A review of past changes and anticipated future needs demonstrates that HR’s participation is vital to the success of any strategic planning. We work in an ever-changing society that requires us to take on new challenges in working with a diverse group of individuals from many backgrounds and cultures. More importantly, the laws affecting our human resources constantly change and this requires all administrators to have a general knowledge of those various laws.

"It’s difficult for administrators to know the impact that these laws will have on their decisions. And unintentional slip-ups can become costly and tarnish the image of a historically sound and productive organization—not to mention the liability. With the HR director’s participation on the board, many questions can be readily answered and foreseeable problems can be avoided."
Marye N. Leonard, Director of Affirmative Action
The Union Institute
Cincinnati, Ohio

I think the new CEO should get one chance to make amends. Given the amount of material available on how HR needs to be a strategic partner in order for most firms to continue being successful—and assuming the CEO has studied the market/company prior to the merger and knows the price of failure—I’m going to guess that the new CEO recently suffered a traumatic closed head injury and has forgotten the value of HR.

So, the CEO gets a chance to tweak the board composition by once again bringing HR to the inner circle. Set up a meeting and give it your best shot.

If HR is still outside looking in, send out as many copies of your resume as you can afford. It’s obvious the CEO is looking to dismantle the corporation and you may as well leave before the first wave hits.

And while this may appear to be written from a cynical perspective, I don’t think I’d want to work for someone who appears to be so short-sighted.
Larry Mills, Director of HR
State University of New York
Oneonta, New York

To take the HR director off the board only will slow down the process of instilling the goals the new CEO has for the organization. HR’s role as a partner with other departments enhances the effectiveness of success. Employee morale, labor relations, benefits and training all are vital parts for achieving organizational goals. To take the HR director off the board would, in the end, be detrimental.
Bruce Conklin, Director of Training
NDYCC
Mande, North Dakota

I’d request a meeting with the new CEO to better understand his or her objectives for the organization, his or her assessment of the human potential to contribute value to the organization and the positive and negative experiences that he or she may have had with HR professionals in the past.

Then I’d review the strategic plan for the newly created organization, and define the role HR can play in enabling the organization to achieve specific outcomes. I’d highlight those areas that reinforce the role of HR as a business partner. I’d select key examples of past accomplishments that demonstrate my ability to positively influence the bottom line through participation as a board member. And I’d ask for the support of board members I’ve worked with in the past who can furnish a sincere testimonial to the quality of my thinking and my ability to develop and execute an implementation plan based on a strategic business initiative rather than administrative tasking. I’d recommend other ways to meet the administrative needs of the organization.

And finally, I’d present my information in a focused and objective manner as this is a superb opportunity to demonstrate my ability to analyze a problem and develop a strategic solution to enhance the business and respond to the needs of a new leadership team.
Pamela Falvey, Director of HR
ABB Industrial Systems Inc.
New Berlin, Wisconsin

Workforce, March 1997, Vol. 76, No. 3, pp. 119-120.

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