The Proper Lineup

To whom does your organization’s top HR executive report?  That is the current poll on SHRM’s web site.  You could choose from the CEO, CFO, COO, legal counsel or “other.”

This has always been an interesting debate for me.  Very early on in my career, the HR Department (for the company I worked for at the time) was told that the HR Director (my boss) would now be reporting through the COO (the COO reported to the CEO).  The HR Director was furious and went through an epic battle over the fact that she felt HR should report directly to the CEO.  At the time, I asked her why.  Her advice made sense; I’ve never forgotten it and still give the same advice to this day.

HR should not report through operations because normally, HR and operations are at odds.  Working in HR, sometimes you’re the hero and sometimes you’re the thorn in the side.  But it’s HR’s job to help operations accomplish what they want to, while protecting the company and/or serving as the conscience of the organization at the same time.  And you can’t have the top HR executive reporting to operations because that could then become a conflict of interest if the two sides aren’t agreeing.  Besides, most times, operations managers don’t have any HR knowledge anyway, so that in itself is reason enough.  The HR boss needs to report to the CEO, who has oversight of everything.

I honestly just shake my head when I hear about an HR Manager or HR Director reporting through Accounting.  It’s defeating the HR Department’s purpose without even realizing it.

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