Four things HR can learn from Microsoft’s new CEO

by Cameron Edmond03 Feb 2014
After months of speculation, rumours and (we imagine) meetings behind closed doors, Satya Nadella looks set to become Microsoft’s third CEO. The decision isn’t one that Microsoft came to lightly – so, what can HR pros learn from the process about recruiting a CEO?

Plenty of leeway:
When Steve Ballmer announced his retirement from the company as CEO in August last year, he gave Microsoft 12 months to find a replacement – more than enough time for a capable and resourceful organisation. While it isn’t always going to be in HR’s power to set the time limit, they might do well to attempt to negotiate a lengthier timeframe when filling the role of CEO (or any executive role, for that matter). Things can go wrong, and sometimes processes take longer than expected – this at least gives the company some leeway.

Assemble a competent team:
The executive search committee formed to find Ballmer’s successor can be best described as a supergroup. Bill Gates was put on the board, as well as current and former CEOs and CFOs of large organisations, with executive search heavyweight Heidrick & Struggles also recruited. Finding a CEO is an important process, and the right people need to be involved – HR may want to look outside their usual circle when it comes to this process.

Have a succession plan:
When Gates stepped down, he had already groomed Ballmer to take the lead. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the same cannot be said for Ballmer’s resignation – hence the need to action a succession plan straight away. 

“CEO succession is a process that should be on-going within an organisation and is one of the most, if not the most important task of the Chairman and the Board,” Nicholas Conigrave, associate director at Hay Group Australia, told HC.

Look beyond the obvious:
Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia and former head of the business division at Microsoft was seen as the ‘prodigal son’ of the company following Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia. As such, much of the media saw him as a shoe-in for the top job, and it probably wasn’t a bad idea: Microsoft had just announced a shift to focusing on hardware, which Elop is versed in.  

However, Nadella has been with Microsoft since 1992. While not a public face for the company, he certainly has made waves – Microsoft’s commercial cloud service grew 107% last year under his leadership, The NY Post reported.

You can read HC’s original report on Microsoft’s CEO search here.

Have you had to replace a CEO, or another executive? Can you think of any other important takeaways for HR pros?

Atlassian HR director Kellie Egan will be discussing C-suite selection and succession planning at the HR Summit. Click here to book now!



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