Which members of the C-suite should HR build strong relationships with?

The C-suite seems to be becoming increasingly crowded in 2017.

Alongside traditional C-suite roles are new positions such as Chief Digital Officer (CDO), Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Risk Officer (CRO), Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) just to name a few.

So which ones should HR be building alliances with?

Kalena Jefferson, general manager people and culture at Southern Cross Care (NSW & ACT) said all exec team relationships are critical.

“Whilst a HR leader must and should partner with the Chief Executive, the CIO, CMO and CFO are partners who can assist in delivery of key people projects which are well integrated,” said Jefferson.

Marketing and IT alignment can ensure efficient, slick and timely delivery of HR programs, Jefferson added.

“Ultimately though, our client is the operations who serve the customer and HR must deliver relevant programs and activities to meet the strategic and operational goals of the business,” she said.

“Being a trusted advisor and close partner to operational heads will ensure buy in and deliver the most impact.”

Meanwhile, Mathew Paine, Director of HR at the International Convention Centre Sydney, said it is essential to continually build a strong relationship with the CEO.

That’s because the CHRO should be a trusted and credible advisor to the CEO and be strong enough to provide the CEO with feedback on their performance when needed.

“The CEO sets the culture of the organisation and must live and actively demonstrate the company’s values, mission and objectives, always being a role model displaying the desired organisational behaviours,” said Paine.

Paine cited a Chinese proverb which says ‘the fish rots from the head’.

“So it is with the CEO and their C-suite team,” Paine added. “The buck both starts and stops in the boardroom.”

Moreover, Erin Cramlet, senior director, human resources at Stryker agreed that it is particularly important that the HR director and CEO are a strong and united team.

“Strong relationships with all leadership team members are essential for HR effectiveness,” said Cramlet.

“At Stryker it is critical for the HR director to be very close and proactively partnering with the sales directors.

“Our sales people are closest to our customers and when our customers are satisfied we all win!”

While HR is rarely thought of as being on the frontline in terms of customer satisfaction, Corry Roberts, vice president human resources at Thales Australia said that, “without a doubt”, the “C-Customer” is the most critical relationship for HR to build.

“We often focus on internal relationships when we think of C-suite, but there is considerable evidence that HR shapes customer satisfaction and loyalty which strongly impact the bottom line,” Roberts said. “We are past the time when Customer management and satisfaction was the sole responsibility of the sales and service teams.”

Roberts said that strong relationships and a collegial atmosphere between employees and customers may actually assist in the retention of both.

“Understanding your C-Customer and increasing your level of customer intimacy allows a comprehensive HR strategy for shaping corporate culture and internal communications.”

Roberts added that greater customer-focus in designing recruitment, coaching, training and development, and other programs, can act as further safeguards that nothing is left to chance in forging lasting relationships with both employees and customers.