HR Hero Line

Insights from a CEO: How HR can get “a seat at the table”

HR has been working for “a seat at the table” for decades, yet that goal remains elusive. Just being the department in charge of what’s often touted as a company’s most valuable resource – its people – isn’t enough on its own. Despite lofty talk, HR often is still seen as the personnel department, a place mired in minutia rather than an enclave of innovation and problem solving vital to a company’s future and bottom line.

Why is that? That’s the topic Dan Oswald, CEO of human resources information provider BLR, tackled at the recent 2012 Advanced Employment Issues Symposium. We’re presenting a series of three videos from his presentation that focus on the role of HR from the perspective of a CEO.

In this first video , Oswald says HR needs to speak the CEO’s language if it wants that coveted seat. He pointed out that HR is often staffed with right-brained people, those who are intuitive, holistic, creative, random, and focused on the big picture. CEOs, CFOs, and COOs, though, are more likely to be left-brained – analytical, logical, rational, objective.

The best executives are able to bridge the gap between left- and right-brained people, and HR professionals need to do the same, Oswald says. That takes time, training, and discipline. He told the HR professionals at the conference they may need to take a business class or seminar on accounting or even “tie yourself to the CFO” to learn about the business. And the education needs to go beyond just the financials. “Whatever it is that drives your business, that’s what you have to get in touch with.”

Dan Oswald writes The Oswald Letter a free weekly e-zine, providing readers with management and leadership advice and a look at how members of the C-Suite view the workplace. Sign up to receive The Oswald Letter at You can read past issues of The Oswald Letter at