Who's the Boss? Reporting to the Chief Human Resources Officer
Last month’s column addressed the security organization reporting to the Chief Financial Officer. This month’s column will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of reporting to the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). Studies have shown that security executives reporting to Human Resources (HR) is one of the more frequent approaches across industry sectors.
Reporting to the CHRO for your enterprise can be of some benefit to security executives. Similar to the COO, GC and CFO, the CHRO is typically looped in on a significant number of issues affecting the enterprise. Additionally, HR’s close link with supervisors and managers alerts them to evolving issues involving employees. HR is also typically an advocate for employees and a place where employees can bring forward concerns about a supervisor, manager or a fellow employee. Having a close link to HR can ensure that security executives can gain insights into concerns with an employee, supervisor or manager and help influence the manner in which the issues are resolved.
Security executives can play a key role by participating in discussions with HR about methodologies that can be deployed to modify employee behavior, which can benefit the enterprise immensely as the cost of replacing employees is significantly higher than salvaging them. The CHRO, like many of the other senior executives discussed in previous columns, is also heavily involved in acquisitions, mergers, divestitures, new facilities, plant closings, layoffs, etc. The security organization has an opportunity to be an early participant in key decisions that affect the enterprise through their reporting relationship to the CHRO.
HR is also the organization that establishes pay grades and conducts compensation reviews. Reporting to the CHRO can give the security executive a leg up in gaining additional compensation and benefits for themselves and members of their security department.
HR’s reputation, like many other organizations, is dependent on the value other executives place on the function and the credibility of the function’s leader. In some enterprises, HR is deemed vital to the success of the company. In others, HR is perceived as an impediment to gaining high productivity from the workforce, and in a few enterprises, HR is viewed as a management tool to weed out the bottom of the barrel in the workforce on an annual basis. Whichever of these is typical of the HR function in your enterprise, it can have a positive or negative impact on the security function simply through affiliation alone.
Additionally, some HR professionals are extremely biased towards security departments and view them with mistrust and disdain. Whatever form the HR function takes in your enterprise, your success or failure will be greatly dependent on your approach, your ability to read the tea leaves, and your skills at convincing your CHRO (and key members of his/her staff) that the security function is a value-added function that is sensitive to employee issues and is focused on assisting the enterprise in effectively managing risk.
I would welcome receiving feedback from any CSOs on their experiences reporting to HR in their enterprise. Please provide your insights on what you have found to be the pros and cons of reporting to HR.
Next month’s column will explore the pros and cons of reporting to the Chief Administrative Officer.