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Why don’t more HRDs become CEOs?

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Following a breakfast debate with our closest HRD friends, here are key insights we arrived at when asking the question why don't more HRDs become CEOs?

1. Commercial heft

The link between a business’ culture and its commercial success is clearer than ever. But frankly, HR is often way behind other group functions when speaking the financial language of the business. Until we catch up our people and culture agenda will continue to struggle to hold equal weight on exec teams.

  • How do we shape more commercially minded HR leaders?

2. HR or bust


50% of CEOs have come from finance, ops and marketing, compared to 5% from HR. In fact, HR Directors have often done nothing other than HR. This means they simply don’t have the whole-business view to lead in increasingly competitive environments. It’s not surprising then that ambitious young talent opt for a different path.

  • Can’t we be bolder in giving our brightest HR talent the chance to build their muscles in other parts of the business?

3. The Pink Ghetto

Too often businesses seem to use the HR function as a way to even up the gender mix. Roughly 73% of HR colleagues are women - and there are no signs of change. It means that as a profession we struggle with our own diversity and inclusion, stifling the level of challenge and innovation that’s needed to change faster than the world around us.

  • We’re responsible for transforming talent pipelines all over our businesses, what about our own?

Despite these reasons, there has undoubtedly been a sea change in the role and prominence of the HRD. Without a doubt, the current crisis and new operating environment means that the role is more crucial than ever before.

Author: Emma Rose Hurst, Architect