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The Big Story: Friends in high places

HR is now sitting among the executive - but in 2012 HR professionals will have to prove why they belong there.

Video transcript below:

Donna Sawyer, HC Online
Donna Sawyer:
 Hello, I am Donna Sawyer and you are watching the Big Story on HC Online. HR has fought and in most cases won the battle for a seat on the Executive Team but in 2012 it will be upto them to prove why they belong there.  Emma Hogan, Director of People and Culture at Foxtel says developing a strong working relationship with her CEO has been the key to the success of her team.

Emma Hogan, Foxtel
Emma Hogan:  I had a close relationship with [Ken May] for the last 4 years, our CEO and you just couldn’t get anything done without him.  You know he is the key sponsor, he is the person who talks about the importance of it and you know backs you up.  And then as we have gone forward and we have done different things and different things that has worked, he has been a lot more reliant on my advice or my team’s advice on what we should do in the next phase or what we should do with leadership or talent or succession or remuneration packages or you know he has come to rely on our opinion a lot more and ask us a lot more rather than tell us and that’s you know taken place over a period of time.
Alec Bashinsky, Deloitte
Alec Bashinsky:  Smart CEOs really get the importance of having a really important strategic HR leader in the business because that’s what shapes the business, helps our acquisitions and actually grows the business and really hopefully out of all this we actually are bringing our employees along for the journey.
Dean Sappey, Frucor
Dean Sappey:  I think having a very supportive CEO around the role of HR plays, it helps for your own career development as well too, so there is no shortage of support there for me to do things in my own development, whether that will be getting a business coach, whether that will be going on a further post grad program, so yeah but I think overall the advocacy in being willing to going to back for HR is a great attribute in a CEO.
Donna Sawyer:  And the role of HR has certainly come a long way since it was viewed as an administrative function of the business.  Alec Bashinsky from Deloitte says HRDs are now expected to lead day to day HR operations as well as help shape and implement the company’s strategic vision.  
Alec Bashinsky:  I think there is a lot of HR practitioners out there talking about wanting to be a HR strategist.  I think it’s really important, the first thing they need to do is actually understand the business.  Go and talk to the business leader, find out what their growth strategies are, find out what their broader work force management plan is and then help build the performance capabilities and really understand the business.  I hear too many people saying I want to be in HR because I like dealing with people.  My view of that is go and be a social worker if you want to do that.  But really understanding the business and having a passion for helping leaders drive their business and growth, that’s really what HR is about today.
Emma Hogan, Foxtel
Emma Hogan:  I mean when I came on board at Foxtel which was nearly 5 years ago now, it was more of a traditional administrative kind of function, with some pockets doing great work depending on who the leader of that area was.  And I think once we got an opportunity to develop a relationship with the CEO and demonstrate how we could actually help him, not hinder him and the same with the executive team, I think that helped us kind of cement our place.  But it didn’t happen overnight, it’s now part of who we are, but it’s not always been that easy and I have worked in other organisations where it’s absolutely part and parcel of what they do and I have worked in others where it’s not and where it’s not I would say, either the company hasn’t allowed HR to demonstrate its value or there hasn’t been a strong enough team to be proactively creating that credibility.  So you kind need it to work both ways, you need the sponsorship but you need the right team in place to deliver.
Donna Sawyer:  Emma Hogan from Foxtel says it’s important to understand the CEO’s top priorities and to be flexible when possible.
Emma Hogan:  I think sometimes we forget what a lonely job being a CEO can be and the amount of pressures that that person has got on.  And I think you know whatever anybody is working on at any given point of time it’s human nature to think your thing is the most important thing and I think the thing you need to remember with the CEO is really always being proactive in understanding on what’s on his or her plate at the time and where your issue fits and what you could be doing to help and do you need to re-prioritise your issues to support whatever is on his or her mind and you know I think early on in my career I thought that everything on my plate needed to be number one and it needed to be the most important thing on the agenda and I think one of the things I have learnt at Foxtel is you know everything has its place and everything will come, will be delivered in time and on time and and sometimes you have to re-prioritise those things and understanding the CEO, what’s on their plate, what’s important to them, what’s the longer term direction versus what’s on today and really juggling those priorities to fit, I think you that’s something that HR people need to be really really good at. 
Donna Sawyer:  For more on CEO relationships and other industry headlines, click around HC Online.  I am Donna Sawyer and I will see you again soon with the Big Story.