Apr 6, 2007

HR as a business partner

....means you do not be friends with the boss. According to Bill Conaty, GE's HR head who worked with Jeff Immelt as well as Jack Welch:

Too often, says Conaty, HR executives make the mistake of focusing on the priorities and needs of the CEO. That diminishes the powerful role of being an employee advocate. "If you just get closer to the CEO, you're dead," says Conaty. "The HR leader locks in with the CEO, and the rest of the organization thinks the HR leader isn't trustworthy and can't be a confidant."

Conaty tries to counteract that risk by distancing himself from Immelt in public settings. While few people spend more time with Immelt than Conaty, he deliberately socializes with other colleagues at functions. Moreover, Conaty says he is the one to "purposely throw the daggers at Jeff that the other guys don't dare do. He knows what I'm doing. I need to be independent. I need to be credible." He also makes a point of being candid with leaders in private. As Immelt recently remarked: "I call Bill the 'first friend'...the guy that could walk in my office and kick my butt when it needed to be."

That's a perspective I am sure a lot of HR heads have lost :-)