A recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and co-sponsored by Oracle and IBM looks at the perceptions C-level executives in Western Europe have of their HR leaders and helps identify areas of opportunity for HR leaders to help their organizations meet their strategic goals.
The EIU surveyed 235 C-level executives, 95 of whom were based in Western Europe, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK. Fifty-seven percent of all 235 respondents identified themselves as CEOs or the equivalent and 43 percent identified themselves as CFOs or the equivalent.
The executive summary, "C-level perspectives of the HR function in Western Europe," determined that many CEOs and CFOs in the region believe that the HR function's expertise and experience in people issues can help companies make difficult but crucial staffing decisions in challenging economic times.
The study also determined that executives in Western Europe value their relationship with senior HR leaders, with 69 percent of respondents saying that their relationship is "close and trustful" and 63 percent saying their relationship with the head of HR is "highly valued."
However, there is room for HR to play a more strategic role in organizations. Only 38 percent of Western European executive respondents believe their head of HR is a key player in strategic planning, and only one in ten believe the role is extremely key.
How HR Leaders in Western Europe Can Better Position Themselves for Success
The majority of respondents expressed concern with the head of HR's understanding of the overall business. Forty-two percent believe the head of HR is too focused on process and is not a "big picture" person, while 36 percent say he or she doesn't understand the business well enough.
The executive report deduces that heads of HR who share views similar to those of the CEO and CFO are likely to be more influential. Eighty-one percent of respondents who strongly agree with the head of HR on the organisation's people strategy also feel that their HR executive is a key strategic player.
C-level executives at the largest companies and organizations are more concerned with HR issues that may cause a drought in leadership. More than two-thirds of respondents at companies with more than 1,500 employees worry that insufficient leadership talent will harm their organisation financially within the next 12 months, compared with only 49 percent at smaller companies.
Finally, executives at the largest companies surveyed (annual revenues of more than US$10 billion) discuss their talent management concerns more frequently with heads of HR. Forty-two percent of respondents at the largest companies often discuss executive performance and development, compared with 24 percent in all smaller companies.
As such, there appears to be a greater opportunity for heads of HR to wield influence on the strategic direction of their company when they:
Work at a larger company or organization;
Showcase strategic thought, particularly where senior-level talent development is concerned, and;
Share similar ideas with the CEO and CFO on the HR strategy.
"It's not surprising to see that the greatest concern of executives at large organizations is leadership talent development and strategy," said Gretchen Alarcon, vice president, Oracle HCM Strategy. "HR leaders can show value to CEOs and CFOs by focusing on strategies to further cultivate senior talent and to keep the valued leaders their organization already has."
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