HR LEADERS – WAKE UP to the realities of your BUSINESS


Many HR experts, especially Dave Ulrich from the University of Michigan and the RBL Group, call for the HR function to do a much better job in connecting it to the needs of the company’s customers and, thereby, business.  Unfortunately, many HR leaders struggle in doing so. Therefore, here’s a practical way to do it by following the examples of several HR projects that can support some typical financial, operating, and strategic business objectives.

Financial Objectives

To improve earnings per share from “X” to “Y” dollars/share.

o With Finance, implement a Cost Control/Profit Improvement workshop to identify and quantify potential cost savings and profit improvement opportunities.

o With Engineering and Marketing, implement a Product Improvement workshop to identify some product and service innovations that can help gain market share and/or reduce product cost.

To increase cash flow by “Z” dollars.

o Train Sales staff on how to resolve and collect outstanding receivables to bring in more cash.

o With Manufacturing, implement an Inventory Reduction workshop to identify and quantify items that can be eliminated, reduced or replaced by less expensive ones.

Operating Objectives

To reduce time-to-market for product “A” by 30%.

o With Engineering and Marketing, implement team projects to re-engineer and streamline the design and launch cycle, while recognizing quality, cost, and manufacturing standards.

o Retrain appropriate management on key changes before implementation.

o Conduct a Project Management workshop to ensure that this project, and all subsequent product development projects, are achieved on time.

To improve customer care to exceed industry standards.

o With Customer Care (CC) staff, survey outside and company experts to catalog new key service principles, standards, measures, and reporting requirements.

o Determine the CC needs for the next generation of company products.

o Determine the new key skills areas required for success and assess the competency level of current staff on all required skills.

o Identify new positions and retraining that are needed for all staff on new principles, standards, processes, measures, and reporting requirements.

o Establish on-going Innovation Workshops to continually improve CC.

Strategic Objectives

To develop 20 general managers who can operate a $50M/year business.

o Develop a seminar-workshop that covers strategic planning, financial management, product/market development, sales, customer service, and leadership with outside experts.

o Set up a personalized development plan for each general manager.

o Review the entire compensation package for each general manager annually.

To increase sales by 20% by acquiring a business that uses an important new technology.

o Update the Sales Incentive plan to recognize the new technology and improved profit.

o With Sales, evaluate the competency level of the Sales staff in the new technology.

o Evaluate the current recruiting sources for the new technology and identify new ones.


Understanding the realities of your company’s business, while effectively directing HR’s administrative duties, and then selecting HR projects that directly impact the business is not for the faint-of-heart.  The task is not easy, is fraught with many difficult challenges, is risky from a compensation viewpoint, and is time-consuming.  It is not recommended for any incumbent who enjoys the cozy warmth and quiet aspects of HR’s administrative life and is comfortable in it.

However, if an HR Leader really wants to connect the function to your company’s business and is willing to put in the necessary time and effort to better understand the realities of the company’s strategic, financial and operating business objectives, the task can be accomplished.  In doing so, he/she must think and act as a businessperson first when applying various innovative HR projects to the company’s business objectives wherein HR will be directly supporting some important business objectives that are crucial to its profitability and long-term strategic success.

If the HR Leader desires to pursue this challenging path, there is one HARD TRUTH that must be understood and personally internalized.  INVESTORS AND THE MARKET HOLD THE TOP MANAGEMENT OF ANY COMPANY ACCOUNTABLE FOR ACHIEVING CERTAIN BUSINESS OBJECTIVES OVER THE SHORT AND LONG TERM.  Therefore, meeting or exceeding these business objectives every fiscal year is the top priority of the CEO and line executives.  It should be the HR Leader’s top priority too.

When the HR Leader successfully connects the function to the company’s business objectives, he/she will gain the respect of the CEO and line executives as a business person, become an equal business partner and will finally get that much-desired seat at the C-Suite table.  In doing so, the HR Leader will be bringing the function into the company’s operational mainstream and gain the full measure of respect from the CEO and line executives for the function’s true worth.


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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