On Purpose Enterprises Blog

Should Your CFO Oversee Your HR Strategy?

In a recent article in Workforce Management (10/1/2011) Lorna Collier provides a great perspective on why many organizations are giving more HR responsibility to their CFO or COO.  In addition to the challenging economic times which force us all to do more with less, Collier makes a great case for thinking completely outside this traditional box.

In the article, executives cite compelling reasons why one-fifth of 1400 CFO’s surveyed are taking on more HR responsibilities, such as: they are process- and detail-oriented; they think strategically; they understand metrics and the bottom line; and they handle compliance and administrative issues well.

An executive says in the article that after having his CFO handle a personnel dispute, “I thought, ‘That just saved me at least two hours.’ That was kind of an aha! moment for me—having someone as that buffer between senior management and the day-to-day.”   As a business advisor, one of the most common complaints that I hear from CEO’s and company presidents is that they waste valuable time handling people issues that could easily be handled by someone else.

But let’s not forget the ‘human’ in human resources.  Another executive says in the article, “At the end of the day, HR is people. You have to have a CFO who has a little of a ‘touchy-feely’ side. You’ve got to have a unique CFO who can be someone people are comfortable talking to, but still be a process-oriented person.”

You read this right.  Both touchy-feely and process-oriented.  In one person.

For my skeptical readers, YES, you can have it both ways.  You can help your numbers-oriented, analytical CFO do a better job with people.   And, YES, you can hire a CFO or COO who is good at both the numbers and the people side of things.  This will require doing a few things differently, however.

If you choose this option, the 2 keys to success here are 1) having a CFO who understands people, and 2) giving them the right tools, information, resources and appropriate support to work effectively with those people.

The optimum solution to the problem, however, is a closer collaboration between the CFO and the HR professionals.  Then, by providing each side of this equation with superior people intelligence – both the ‘hard’ numbers and the ‘soft’ people processes – can create huge improvements in your organization’s effectiveness and profits.  You can gain better control over turnover, increase retention and employee engagement, reduce recruiting and hiring costs and manage risks.

One last note.  This may be the best option for your organization’s HR challenges.  But you’ll want to be certain that your CFO or COO has the capability and support to handle this task – before – you make this move.  I can help you make the right decisions using assessments, organizational analysis and other tools.

If you’d like to review a client case study showing how some of the top organizations in various industries across the U.S. have solved their people problems and gained dramatic bottom line results, please give me a call.