Article: HR leaders must think like business professionals

Learning & Development

HR leaders must think like business professionals

Jeff Griese, CHRO, ZS Associates says HR managers need to develop the aptitude of a business professional
HR leaders must think like business professionals

HR leaders need to play a much more intentional role in growing and developing young HR talent


HR leaders should stay informed about the customers’ business as it would provide a better understanding of the challenges the customer faces


Jeff Griese believes that HR leaders need to play a much more intentional role in growing and developing young HR talent. In an interview to People Matters, he talked about the two main competencies that an HR professional needs to build, the ways in which HR can participate in the business and finally how does that make a great CHRO.

Q. As an experienced talent management professional, can you share the top lessons learned in your journey?

A. I’ve been in the workforce for over 32 years and I picked up several life lessons in my journey. I started my journey in consulting, working with one of the largest global consulting companies. Some of the key business-facing skills I learnt in my client work during that time still help me find solutions and make me an effective HR professional today. For example, learning how to work with clients, how business issues are resolved and how leaders respond to business-facing demands. In terms of hard skills too, the experience helped me as I learned several core skills that make an HR professional effective such as managing difficult client conversations, listening to people, drawing implications and finding business solutions for problems. These early skills still help me greatly in my present role as a CHRO.

I am a firm believer that HR leaders need to play a much more intentional role in growing and developing young HR talent. There is a big need for HR professionals to develop business thinking. It is important for the leadership, and especially the CHRO, to encourage the HR team to, first and foremost, be good business professionals.

Talent is the backbone for any organisation regardless of the industry. Talent management, consequently, is the backbone of whatever a business does. It is ultimately the responsibility of the business to drive talent and be responsible for capability and quality. Driving these traits in talent is a critical responsibility of talent management.

Q. What are the key competencies that a talent management professional should build?

A. There are several skills that an HR professional needs to build in order to become an effective talent manager. First of all, listening is a very important skill for an HR professional. Listening is different from simply hearing another person; listening should be active. Listening does not mean only the verbal, but involves observing the non-verbal too. In fact, research says that over 80% of what we communicate is conveyed through the face and the body language. A good listener has the ability to not only hear what is said, but to read from these non-verbal cues as well.

Thinking like a business professional is absolutely essential for a good HR manager. An HR professional should have the aptitude to think how a business professional thinks. For example, it is important to know how the company makes money, to understand noteworthy trends in the industry, and know the competition. To be able to stay current with the business and the industry, an HR professional needs to read and research. In fact, these should be an essential element of an HR professional’s time and access to leading-edge research and content is a very important component of staying relevant.

Q. In what ways can HR participate actively in the business?

A. First of all, an HR professional should be tuned to the mission, vision, values and strategy of the company. Then, HR needs to understand the financial basics of the business…how the company makes money. Everyone on an HR team should know how to read financial statements and understand them. In this way, they can be on an even-footing with the peers throughout the company and speak with knowledge and confidence about the business.

Another key to being a successful HR professional is to be informed about the customers of the company. For example, if one of the company’s key customers is in the pharmaceutical industry, it is important for the HR professional to be abreast of the latest issues and challenges in the pharmaceuticals industry. Staying informed about the customers’ business provides a better understanding of the challenges that customer faces, and by extension, deeper insight into what challenges their own people face in serving their customers.

Q. What are the changes you have witnessed in India in the last 20 years?

A. Obviously, for someone who has been visiting the country regularly since 1995, India has experienced many visible infrastructural changes. But more importantly, the capabilities and calibre of the people have dramatically changed. As a company, ZS believes in hiring the best candidates and our belief in India is very strong. A large part of our workforce is from India and we hire the top talent from the premier institutes in the country; India is an incredible talent market for us!

The educational opportunities and access in India has improved dramatically and that has led to many more rich career opportunities as well. The average age of the workforce in our company is under 29 years. We do not deal with the illusion that the millennial generation will be “coming soon” – the millennial generation is our workforce today and they are a fiercely independent generation with a different set of expectations. We are looking at a future when another new workforce generation will begin to emerge, likely around 2020. It will be interesting to see how the 2020 generation mixes with the millennial generation!

Q.What is the most important experience that makes for a great CHRO?

A. I often hear HR professionals say that they aren’t engaged with the leadership team or the CEO, or that the leadership team doesn’t really engage them or do anything for them, or that they just don’t feel they have much to add at the leadership table. How disappointing is that? So my last word for an aspiring CHRO is “care less for what the leadership team can do for you, and care much more about bringing insights and value to the table.” That’s the beginning of becoming a great CHRO.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #HRInsights, #ExpertViews

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