Speech bubbles representing advice

As the leaders behind all things talent acquisition, learning and development, and employee engagement, HR professionals have a wealth of insight on the companies they help manage.

Human resources professionals are often known as the jack or jill-of-all-trades in their companies. Many times, HR employees are the ones doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making sure culture, community, and compensation are on-point. The diversity of the work HR professionals do gives them invaluable insight that allows them to see their organizations through a lens many other employees don’t have.

We recently had the opportunity to speak to over 20 HR professionals and asked them a multitude of questions about their predictions on the future of HR, their common pain points, and the most rewarding parts of their roles. One question that stirred up a lot of passionate and interesting responses was, “What is one piece of advice you would give all CEOs as it relates to HR?” Answers covered everything from how to hire the best HR professionals to making sure HR departments are used as a resource in their company. Here are the top five lessons we learned when HR professionals revealed the advice they would give their CEO:

Make HR professionals your partners, not your police.

“View them as your partner, not as the police.”

“Make HR a part of the team as they own the workforce and its output.”

“We are your partners. Grow us as such.”

“If HR does not report directly to you and does not attend board meetings, you cannot say your organization cares about your talent.”

“CEOs with an HR background account for only 6% of all CEOs. My advice would be to take bold steps to ensure they are familiar with the entirety of [processes] and the interdependence of all departments/units. HR must become more than a place to go for benefits or employee complaints.”

As we spoke to HR professionals, one thing became increasingly clear: they want to be seen as a valued partner by their CEO. As the leaders behind so many important functions of the business – talent acquisition, learning and development, performance management, and employee engagement to name a few – HR professionals have valuable insight that CEOs could use to guide their companies. Executive leadership would gain value from creating more opportunities to collaborate with their HR department. HR is designed to serve as the voice of a company’s workforce. CEOs can utilize this role to ensure that all employees are engaged and actively contributing to an organization’s mission.

Since HR professionals are the people closest to the pulse of the company, CEOs will benefit from the expertise and insight HR can bring to crucial discussions involving company goals and organizational management. CEOs should consider giving the HR leader a seat at the table and listen to what they have to say. HR professionals have a lot to offer a company, and they don’t want to be underestimated.

Invest in your employees and the rest will follow.

“Great talent is the only long term sustainable competitive advantage that exists. A world class HR function can help you take advantage of this opportunity and have greater impact than any other C-suite member.”

“Take care of your employees, and the rest will follow.”

“Be aware that your people [are] your real force.”

“Create a solid foundation upon which you can build your best people…”

People are at the heart of every organization, and HR professionals know this better than anyone. They were overwhelmingly clear in wanting to tell their CEOs they need to ensure they are investing in their employees and providing ongoing talent development. Recruiting and retaining the best employees is incredibly important in order to continue to grow as a company.

Investing in employees is not only about paying them a good salary. It’s about providing them with opportunities to grow personally and professionally and engaging them in work that they find meaningful. It’s also crucial to view your employees as your team members and allow them to have ownership over their contribution to the organization. A company culture that values the role of every employee will thrive because employees will feel motivated to do good work. Building relationships with employees and genuinely wanting the best for them can be the most valuable investment someone makes in their business.

Drive organizational change through your HR department.

“Demand that HR steps up and plays a leadership role in driving the changes required.”

“Involve them early and partner through all people issues, especially [organizational] changes.”

“If we are to guide organizations and be the resource that [makes] a valuable difference, we must differentiate ourselves.”

HR professionals oversee so many vital areas of a company that it is important to actively involve them in any small or large organizational changes. The HR department has the capacity to not only be a partner in change, but also an executor of change for a business. When the executive team of a company is working towards shifting many aspects of a company’s mission or vision, HR professionals need to be a key part of this conversation. Not only will they be able to contribute to the discussion, but they can aid in driving change through the HR department.

HR professionals want to be seen as a resource and used to improve performance, restructure departments, or focus on a new mission. As the gatekeepers of culture and talent at a company, HR professionals are the perfect people to lead and guide their company’s vision.

Use data to make decisions and invest in innovation.

“The largest expenditure of the majority of companies is salaries. Ensure the appropriate resources are in place to focus on that ROI.”

“Pay attention to process improvement opportunities and spend some money.”

“Hire an HR leader who does not have an HR background; then HR will become innovative!”

“Leverage technology so that information is available to make business decisions.”

When we talked to HR professionals, there was an overwhelming sentiment that it is common for HR departments and the HR profession to be seen as outdated. HR professionals want to be data-driven decision-makers and want the freedom to be innovative. As big data transforms the way we do business, HR departments want to be at the helm of this revolution. HR professionals are involved in tracking metrics to review performance and are often involved in managing the health of many aspects of a business. Leveraging data and technology (and investing in HR resources) can be invaluable for HR professionals.

HR can also have a helpful hand in improving processes at a company. Utilizing data gives CEOs a good overview of the areas HR is managing and will help them make better decisions in the long run. HR departments aren’t all about pushing paperwork around. They want to be seen as data-driven leaders that are always looking to make processes more efficient and impactful.

Prioritize employee engagement at all costs.

“Employee engagement is the cornerstone of any organizational strategic plan.”

“Don’t wait for an exit interview to act. Be proactive in your communication on the growth and stability of a company and ensure management is staying close to their teams and providing them guidance and support, resources and challenges daily to avoid turnover.”

While HR departments play an important role in engaging employees and collecting feedback, HR professionals were adamant to convey the need for all members of an organization (including the CEO) to engage with their team members and build a true community at work. Actively engaging employees will not only allow leadership to hear employees’ concerns and ideas, but it will also make them more productive and happier at work.

It’s all about being proactive. Many times, employees leave their companies because they don’t feel engaged with their team or their work. If a company’s leadership is constantly talking to their employees and asking for feedback, they won’t be blindsided when a crucial team member leaves the company. Making sure all employees are growing professionally and actively contributing will help a company decrease turnover and increase productivity.

HR professionals have a wealth of knowledge that is unique to their position in a company. Tapping into their experiences and asking for their opinions can make a big difference as a company continues to grow and develop its workforce.