How To Transform HR From Administrative Afterthought To True Business Partner

Jack Bucalo explains why CEOs might not understand the true value HR can offer. He demonstrates why and how HR can align services to its organization’s business strategies and objectives to be seen as a true business partner. He offers practical examples to illustrate how HR can demonstrate its value and avoid the function being viewed as an “administrative after-thought.” On leadership development, Jack explains why an executive’s skills development needs to be a mix of 75% hard skills and 25% soft skills.


Jack Bucalo
Jack Bucalo
JACK has led the Global HR function for a Fortune 500 and 1000 international company and several other large international companies. With four years of line experience complementing his HR experience, he believes that the CHRO or HR Leader should play a more direct role in helping the CEO to achieve the company's business objectives and strategic goals, while effectively implementing its administrative duties. In doing so successfully, the CHRO or HR Leader can become an equal business partner with his/her line management peers while becoming more directly involved in the company's operational mainstream, rather than being just an administrative afterthought. As a pragmatic practitioner, Jack publishes detailed and actionable articles on a wide variety on critically-important HR issues on BIZCATALYST 360°. He is also on the advisory board for other web sites. Jack's over 20 years of executive-level HR experience for which he was responsible for company, executive and Board-related matters, form the basis for most of viewpoints.

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  1. An executives soft skill set is 25% soft? I always found soft skills hovering around 50% for senior management and 75% for executives. Then again this is for our Fortune clients. When the companies are smaller and the hierarchy flattened, I see 25% of skills being soft. Then again, maybe what I consider soft skills is not the same as those described in this article.

    • Thanks Chris for your comment. My experience may differ from yours, but here it is. For two three billion plus international companies, where I personally did the coaching for over 100 executives (cash comp between $300 and $800K/annum) in each company, hard skills prevailed. Such hard skills included functional acumen, financial acumen, strategic planning, stock market relations, etc. Hope this helps. Jack

      • Thanks Jack. Our experiences do over lap, though the majority of my background comes with doing strategic change and culture change for national and international companies. Our firm works with a wide range of executives. If we break down the hourly activities of executives at our clients in buckets, the ratios for the executives can be…

        40% – politics (35% soft)
        30% – working at same level or level above (25% soft)
        20% – planning for subordinates, communications, removing impediments (10% soft)
        10% – working with subordinates (5% soft)
        = 75% of all hours require soft skills

        Now if politics is subdued in the organization the ratios can look like
        40% – working at same level and above (10% soft)
        30% – planning for subordinates, communications, removing impediments (5% soft)
        20% – working with subordinates (5% soft)
        10% – politics (5% soft)
        = 25% of all hours require soft skills

        When citing my ratios before, I did not consider low political organizations, nor did I include context. My apologies on that. Also, to emphasize the ratios for soft to hard skills can be very subjective. We talk quite a bit about this to our clients, the dollar investment needed, and level of returns expected.

        • Hi Chris, Though our ratios may differ slightly, to me, the key point here is that leadership development programs should cover both hard and soft skills TOGETHER, within the practical context of the executive’s real world business objectives, strategies, challenges and plans. Until LD programs stop treating leadership as though it occurs in a vacuum, devoid of the hard skills and executive’s business objectives, etc., they will continue to fail in the eyes of the CEO because they offer little or no business value in relation to the amount of valuable time the executives will expend on the program itself.

        • Chris, though our ratios may differ somewhat, the important point here is LD programs should cover both hard and soft skills TOGETHER, within the practical context of the executive’s real world business objectives, strategies, challenges and plans. Such programs cannot treat leadership as though it exists in a vacumm, devoid of the executive’s real world realities.
          All the best, Jack

          • The ratios I gave are real examples of what we see at our client sites.

            I’m in total agreement about the strong cohesion with soft and hard skills. However, I must stress that without specific data points separating the soft skills from the hard is impossible. This all changes when the data is there and all tracked. What is an executive’s force multiplier? With specific data collected we can help answer that by tracking the impact executives have in meetings, processes, and communications.

            That said, getting clients to do the warm and fuzzy soft skills is a very hard sell. No one wants to pay someone so they can get you to sit on a yoga mat and talk about your feelings. For us to sell a service, everything has to be from the systemic view point, even the soft skills need to be looked at from a systemic view point.