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ORG CHART 101:What Who HR Reports To Really Means in Your Organization...

Does who HR reports to in the organization have a lot of meaning?  Many people think it does, and here's what one of my readers thinks it means.  Take a look and let's talk after the jump:

--HR reports to CEO: people are our biggest asset; culture is important, as is engagement.  Why_dont_you_just_PAY_ATTENTION_TO_ME_xlarge

--HR reports to COO: people are our building blocks; urgent resource needs for delivery of product or service, tactical.

--HR reports to CFO: people are our biggest expense; headcount is a dirty word, bottom-line.

--HR reports to GC: people are our biggest liability; why-we-can’t policy administration, risk aversion.

I like the list - a lot.  But it's not absolute - one of the best direct reporting relationships and the most support I ever had was when I reported to a CFO.  I'd venture a guess to say that the reporting relationship that's set up has more to do with the value the CEO places on HR than it does how the entire org views HR.  After all, reporting to a COO of CFO doesn't have to be a death sentence for HR - you can do cool things and having access to the guy/gal who controls the purse strings (CFO) can't be all bad, right?

One thing I totally agree with is the General Counsel thing.  Let's get out there and limit some risk, people!  That's probably not fair, but it seems like the least progressive place to be...

So I leave you with this question - would you rather report to a CEO who goes through the motions or a COO or CFO who gets it and is fully engaged?  Hit me in the comments with what you think.  


Josh Westbrook

Before I answer your question, I think HR needs to be split up in order to add value, become a strategic partner, have a seat at the table, yada, yada, yada...

The problem with HR is that we are responsible for skills, functions or competencies that don't necessarily fit together. Other functions have different roles and specialties, but they seem to relate more than HR's roles and specialties. For example, employee and labor relations has an enormous legal element, and you can easily justify that function reporting up to the GC. But compensation, benefits and payroll feels very much like a Finance function. And then there is some recent research out there that basically suggests that Human Resources, Organizational Development and maybe even Learning & Development should all be divided up. Not sure I agree with dividing HR up too much, and not to over-complicate the issue, but this does complicate who we think HR should report up to.

HR clearly has different roles (i.e. administrative expert, strategic partner, employee champion and change agent). And how it's divided is a strategic decision to made by the organization. There is merit to the argument that all roles within HR have a legal aspect, or an expense aspect, and therefore should report to the GC or CFO, but that's probably oversimplifying the issue. On the other hand, reporting to the CEO could be an oversimplification as well and the result of a lazy effort on deciding what HR does and to whom they should report.

Sorry, but that's a long way to say I'd rather report to the senior executive who gets it and is fully engaged.

Vidal F.

Well done Kris! I tend to believe the reporting relationship to HR is more about the notion of the value placed on people as an asset, than being able to perform or not based on your boss' support.

The message it passes on to the workforce (specially leaders) is crucial to ensure engagement, productivity and of course ease potential roadblocks along the journey.

I have had great (non-HR) bosses and bad ones as well, but if the message is properly conveyed from the top, your life is made easier pyramid down and as long as you deliver, HR will have its place.

It's not to whom HR reports, but the overall perception and value of the function within the overall scheme of the business strategy. HR tends to annoyingly keep asking for the seat, instead of earning it – instead of keep on screaming, we should perhaps consider what we’re saying.

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