Learning & Development

Speaking the Language of Your CEO

It’s no secret there’s sometimes a significant disconnection between the CEO (and C-suite) and HR leaders in many organizations. While HR is focused on ensuring a positive and supportive culture and boosting employee engagement, CEOs are much more focused on the bottom line and often have a hard time understanding and supporting HR initiatives that, to them, may lack evidence of a real return on investment (ROI).

Follow the Numbers

In most organizations, human capital represents the greatest expense on the balance sheet. That big expense represents a big opportunity for HR professionals, who can get their messages aligned with areas of relevance for senior leaders.

It may be a blow, but it’s likely true: CEOs don’t care about how satisfied employees are—they care about how that satisfaction translates to higher productivity and other demonstrable bottom-line impacts.

Trying to sell “nice to do” initiatives without data to back up their business relevance is a good way to ensure your messaging lacks resonance.

Understand What Matters Most

When was the last time you looked at your organization’s strategic plan? Do you know what your company’s strategic initiatives are? Do you know what metrics have been selected by the senior leadership team to monitor success?

If you aren’t familiar with your organization’s strategic plan or priorities and don’t know what metrics keep senior leaders up at night, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to develop and pitch initiatives that will receive C-suite approval. That lack of understanding is one big reason so many HR professionals (and other members of service departments) continue to lament their lack of involvement.

Creating Conversations to Build Connections

HR professionals should avoid sitting in their offices and lamenting about the lack of connections or the lack of understanding between them and the CEO and other C-suite executives. Instead, it’s important to reach out to make connections and build understanding. What are the CEO’s and C-suite members’ specific areas of focus?

Gaining this understanding can help you build better business cases to support your recommendations.

Building the Business Case

Building a business case involves presenting reliable and valid support for whatever recommendations you may be making. This could include a financial analysis, case studies, research, trends reports, benchmarks, or internal data, e.g., the current cost of turnover and what a specific percentage reduction in turnover could represent in terms of cost savings or boosted productivity.

Framing your conversations based on bottom-line impacts can put “real green reasons” behind HR-related recommendations.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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