HR as the C-suite emissary

Most HR directors are now finding themselves with a place in the C-suite. Is their new role all about delivering a message?

HR as the C-suite emissary
Australian CEOs continue to struggle with communicating an organisation’s strategy and vision of the future, experts claim.

Wayne Condon and Ty Wiggins, co-founders of Converge Consulting, believe that an inability for CEOs in Australia to deliver a message of a clear corporate plan is holding back Australian businesses.

“If the CEO can’t succinctly articulate the business strategy in terms that are exciting and positive, then how can line managers and staff be expected to commit with enthusiasm and dedication to the realisation of the company’s long term goals and aspirations?” stated Wiggins.
There is evidence to suggest CEOs aren’t achieving in this area. A study from Tinypulse revealed that, globally, only 42% of employees could recite their organisation’s vision, mission and values. In addition, 95% are not aware of or do not understand their organisation’s strategy.
With HR’s position in the C-suite a staple of 2014’s corporate climate, this is an area that HR directors can certainly work to remedy. The keen understanding of people and organisational culture means HR can function as an emissary of sorts – helping employees see the C-suite’s vision.
A similar discussion was initiated by people development expert Brett Griffiths on LinkedIn, resulting in a flurry of insights from HR specialists.
“Often the mission, vision and values of an organisation aren't fully aligned - or at least aren't seen by staff to be aligned. I suspect this isn't consciously done, it's just how things have evolved over time,” Neil Hunsworth, employee engagement manager at Which?, wrote.
“Transparent and engaged leadership is a prerequisite for communicating the mission and vision. I think HR can and should take the lead for communicating values,” added State Banks of Cross Plains HR employment officer Daniel Anderson.
Key HR takeaways
As an emissary for the C-suite, HR must ensure the message delivered to staff is easily digestible. Georgia Everse, communications and marketing expert, advised the following in article for The Harvard Business Review to make your messages to staff more appealing:
  • A simple message deep in meaning
    The meaning for why the organisation exists – which may run deep into the heart of the founder and their views on the world – manifests in strategy, decision making and behaviours. However, employees don’t always understand why things are the way they are. As such, this core belief needs to be boiled down into something simple that can resonate with employees.
  • Behaviour based on market and customer insights
    While HR is primarily an internal function, some understanding of market realties can help inform business strategy and message. Making it clear to employees how the market is fairing will help them understand the decisions that are being made. Allow employees to learn from the way clients and customers are reacting to the organisation and why.
  • Make the CEO ‘human’
    Faceless men behind tinted glass just doesn’t cut it anymore. In reality, no one is inspired by a person in a suit who appears above them. HR should work to help connect the CEO with staff, and allow them to appear human. As such, the message and strategy as delivered to employees should not smack of corporate jargon.
  • Don’t go top-down
    HR should also monitor the direction of the message. If it comes from top-down only, it is likely falling on deaf ears. Delegate the message to team leaders within the company who can then help bring it to their staff, helping to deliver the message across the organisation.

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