The first 90 days in a senior HR role are critical, particularly when it comes to forging a good relationship with the CEO. Tom Brown, a globally experienced HR director and current executive director of People Ingenuity, offers advice on putting your best foot forward.
Congratulations! You made it to the top HR job. So what now?
Your first 90 days are critical. They can make or break the impact you have as a new chief human resources officer. You have much to learn, results to deliver, a team to lead, relationships to build – and everyone is watching.
I recall my first ‘top job’ appointment as a time of excitement and eagerness to do a good job. However, I soon discovered the role did not come with a user manual and there was no guidance on how to actually be the CHRO. So where to start?
My approach was simple. Take a step back: stop, look, listen and then act. Many new CHROs are tempted to come straight in with good intentions to make a positive impact, assume “I’ve got the answer”, and then jump into action. This is a recipe for disaster. You may very well have the answers, but first you have to get out into the business, talk to people, managers, executives and your team and listen. Take the opportunity to educate yourself first.
There are two key areas I would pursue from the off. One is establish what the reputation of HR is in the business, the strategy and structure, the technology capability, and check you have the right people and capability in place.
Second, seek to understand the business and strategy deeply, learn the key metrics of success, know all the key players and their challenges, make the CFO your best friend, and most importantly begin to build a strong working relationship with your CEO.
Partnering with the CEO
Arguably, the most important and impactful relationship for a CHRO is the close working relationship they build with their CEO.
We know relationships are hard work, but with high return. A strong working relationship with your CEO is invaluable: to them, to you, and to the success of the business. Think about three key roles: the trusted confidant and wise counsel; organisational architect; people expert.
The old adage “It’s lonely at the top” is still true for CEOs today, but it is a space that is becoming increasingly invaded by other constituents like investors, boards and regulators. The CEO needs someone who is both wise counsel and trusted confidant. This is where you come in. You are the person in the organisation who is best placed and equipped to do this. You need to earn trust and respect. You need to get to know each other very well, what your respective drivers and values are and the journey you want to go on together. And you need to start building that early, during those first 90 days. Sometimes it is built on being controversial.
The first 90 days is an important time for a new CHRO. You will lay the foundation for your success. So be intentional and be bold … Carpe Diem!
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the August 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Good vibrations’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.