United Technologies shocked the business world Monday when it announced its CEO of the past six years, Louis Chenevert, was abruptly retiring and would immediately be replaced by their longtime CFO, Gregory Hayes.
What’s interesting about the move is not necessarily that a longtime CEO abruptly left a company that generated $62.6 billion in revenue in 2013 or the rumors that go along with that. Or even the person who replaced him, Hayes, who has served as the company’s CFO since 2008.
What’s interesting about it, at least from an HR perspective, is how commonplace the hire was. Hayes, a “number cruncher” who takes a fact-based approach to everything, including public speaking, is very typical of a lot of CEOs in America today – an analytical type who uses data to make decisions.
And therein lies the bigger lesson: HR teams, for decades, have screamed that they are fundamentally underappreciated and demand a “seat at the table,” i.e. an office on the C-suite. That starts by understanding exactly what today’s business leaders are looking for, people very typical of Hayes, and then playing to that.
The first step is understanding Hayes, who, in many ways, is the prototypical CEO. Business Insider recentlydiscovered that most S&P 500 CEOs either have a background in finance (15 percent of them worked in finance directly before being promoted), likes Hayes, or engineering (33 percent of CEOs have undergraduate degrees in engineering).
What does that mean? Well, much like Hayes, they are people whose core strength is analytical thinking, as opposed to softer skills associated with the traditional manager.
Hayes, specifically, was “renowned for his intense focus on operational execution, strong balance sheet management and cash-flow generation,” according to Bloomberg. He’s known for having a very direct, very candid style as well, according to the news service.
That style has gotten him in trouble before. Four years ago, he said that “anyplace outside of Connecticut is low-cost,” when asked about the state’s business climate.
Not exactly the most endearing thing to say about his company’s home state, whose state government gave it $400 million in tax breaks over the past few years, according to the Hartford Courant. That said, it is hard to argue with the premise, as Connecticut has routinely been named one of the least business-friendly states in the nation.
That’s typical of Hayes, and typical of most American CEOs: facts over fashion.
The Lesson For HR Teams
For human resource teams to get an office on the C-suite, they are going to have to impress people like Hayes, who is typical of many CEOs. So how do they do that?
With data. Especially on the important stuff.
And what is the most critical operation HR controls? Well, HR, among other roles, is responsible for recruitment strategies and then keeping employees motivated and engaged. That’s a big one, because, ultimately, a company is only as strong as the talent of its employees.
If HR teams can gain use a data-driven approach to recruiting employees and then keeping them engaged, people like Hayes are going to listen. Because if they measure their quality of hire and then work to improve it, they can tie that improvement directly to the bottom line – something somebody like Hayes is really focused on.
HR teams and CEOs today are speaking different languages. People like Hayes are direct and data driven. And yet, many HR teams today don’t have an effective, data-driven way to measure their most critical business function – the quality of their company’s hires – or a data-backed strategy to improve that function.
HR needs to take an analytical approach to the way it recruits and engages employees and then it needs to directly tie that to revenue. Once it does that, not only will it have a seat at the table, it will have one of the most-respected voices at the table.
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