CEO’s – why your real rainmaker probably sits in your HR team
When I started in recruitment in 2000, Human Resources didn’t exist, HR was called “Personnel” and “Personnel” would send out contracts and, in smaller firms, often run payroll. There were some early attempts at diversity strategy and building more tailored benefits packages, but next to the meticulous work being undertaken today, it all looks quite rudimentary. Today, many CHROs work hand in hand with CFOs and CEOs, but outside of the larger firms, HR wasn’t particularly well represented in strategy meetings. We aren’t HR recruiters at Fram, our focus is very much on financial services mid-to-senior hires in front office and functions such as finance, ops, compliance and sales & marketing, but we do work with many HR teams and have a good insight into how firms are seeing this function so differently than when I started working in 2000.
I’m perhaps painting a simplified picture, but I do know many firms viewed “Personnel” as a cost centre. In many ways, the world was simpler. The technology didn’t exist to work remotely, and the primary purpose of business was to make a return for shareholders. However, the corporate world we live in today has rapidly evolved and pandemic period between 2020 and today has asked as a microcosm of some of the issues a modern-day HR professional finds themselves involved in: mental health, business continuity, diversity, social justice, ESG, talent attraction, retention, hybrid working, comp & bens reviews, change projects, strategy and culture. Whilst many of these issues are ever present in an HR professionals in-tray, all were intensified during the pandemic. Hybrid working has been a boon to many, but how do you build culture in a remote world? How does a firm evaluate performance, or spot the signs of mental health problems early when you rarely see a colleague? Changes in the labour market have created huge talent shortages and in businesses that can’t pass on all their increased costs to customers, the challenge of retaining staff has been key when pay rises can’t always keep up with inflation.
During the height of the pandemic, I spoke to a retired CEO and one of their key thoughts? Leadership teams need their HR colleagues more than ever. They are the glue and sounding board between management and their teams. The sheer amount of change we all experienced at the time, most of which has stayed with us, threw up so many different business connotations and emotions – most of which leadership teams wouldn’t have even given thought to – HR were one of the few teams able to capture the data and feeling flowing through an organisation.
However, why did I write “Why the real rainmaker probably sits in your HR team?”. Well, it’s all down that lovely word leverage. By this I don’t mean financial leverage that financial services professionals love to talk about so much. I broadly mean it in the sense that professional services firms use it. In fact, in many law firms “leverage” is often everything. Strictly speaking leverage is the number of partners to full time employees (FTEs) and the theory being the fewer partners you have to FTEs, the better your profitability. The way I’m using leverage is the ability for someone to positively impact and organisation to increase profitability and the right behaviours – and few in a company can influence this factors more than your CHRO and/or their team.
I listed the following as being some of the key themes we saw HR teams dealing with during the pandemic: mental health, business continuity, diversity, social justice, ESG, talent attraction, retention, hybrid working, comp & bens reviews, change projects, strategy and culture. If you believe that business performance comes from a combination of factors working together positively and what Dave Brailsford at British Cycling termed “marginal gains”, your HR team can affect a great many of these. Want to enter a new market? Hire the right person. Team responsible for hiring? HR. Want to ensure that your working environment rewards fairly and retains good people? Team responsible for this? HR. You get my point.
I mentioned we aren’t HR recruiters, and we aren’t really, but we have successfully placed HR professionals for existing clients. We are professional headhunters and so the process is the same. What has been interesting when working on these searches is how the best firms, the most successful employers, don’t skimp when it comes to paying for HR talent. They not only pay well on base salaries, but on bonuses too, understanding the commercial impact a good HR professional can have.
Whilst I think the pandemic is a once in a generation event (I strongly hope so anyway), we are at the very start of the changes in how we work, and teams we want to build. Life will only become more complex and so if I wanted to change my firm for the better, I’d be thinking about am I getting the most from my HR team.
About Fram Professionals
Fram Professionals is a specialist professional services, growth and VC-backed focused recruitment consultancy based in Bedfordshire. Originally working with clients within the university “golden triangle” region of London, Cambridge, and Oxford, we now work with clients across the UK.
Contact us on [email protected] or call 01525 864 372 for an informal chat about our services.
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