Meanwhile, in the boardroom – aligning CEO expectations with HR realities 


The ongoing debate surrounding the inclusion of HR professionals in the boardroom acknowledges that people and talent are vital for any organisation in a challenging business environment. Rightly, the role of HR in strategic decision-making has evolved over time.

However, consulting firm Semler Brossy found that only 8% of S&P 500 boards have a current or former Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) on their board today. Does this explain why we have a disconnect between CEO expectations of the talent function and the actual experiences faced by HR leaders?

Our recent report, The Art of the Possible: The Power of Disruptive Tech in SME Recruitment, surveyed CEOs and HR Leaders from over 300 companies and revealed some significant differences between the two groups. Let’s take a look.

Effective integration of AI

Of the CEOs who responded to our survey, 80% reported effective integration of AI into their recruitment process, whereas only 45% of HR leaders (Head of HR, Head of Talent, Head of Recruitment, etc) said they had.

In response, our contributing subject matter expert, Christine Morton, Principal Consultant at Proxima, reflected that CEOs might be viewing AI through a different lens than just talent acquisition. With the ability to use AI throughout the employee lifecycle, CEOs will likely see it making a positive impact in many areas. She also highlights that HR and TA teams are not software professionals and not inherently equipped to navigate the increasing amounts of technology within their talent processes. They are rightly more cautious about adopting something new and must kick the tyres of all tech they are considering to ensure alignment with business needs, especially from a bias and candidate perspective.

Using Talent Intelligence for strategic workforce planning

A resounding 90% of CEOs reported they used talent intelligence for strategic workforce planning, while a comparatively lower 58% of HR leaders reported the same.

Alison Ettridge, CEO of Stratigens, suspects this disparity comes from HR's overall involvement in the conversation about business strategy. A CEO will leverage insights and data to inform their strategic decisions, but if HR is not regularly involved in those decisions, they will answer the question differently.

Toby Culshaw, Head of Talent Intelligence at Amazon, suggests some mixed messaging is reaching the C-Suite too, and it comes down to the definition of talent intelligence. Often, the term is used to describe internal talent management or talent acquisition analytics. However, true talent intelligence practitioners would take this data and overlay it with external labour market data to comprehensively inform strategic workforce planning. While internal data can offer some forecasting and valuable insights, the absence of external market data makes it hard to understand your data in the broader context of the talent landscape. This is the granular level of intel wanted by execs and what HR leaders need to be able to provide.

Performance of recruitment team

Our report survey showed that 86% of CEOs were happy with the performance of their recruitment team, and 66% of HR leaders also indicated they were happy with their team's performance.

While these figures show a lot of positivity around team performance, we'd question whether an air of optimistic PR penetrates through to the boardroom. We expect HR leaders involved in the team's day-to-day operations to strive for continuous improvement while adapting to change and maintaining high service standards for the business.

Use of data in the hiring process

Within our survey, we asked about the use of data in the hiring process. The findings revealed that 86% of CEOs and 77% of HR leaders said they needed to increase their data usage.

As we reported earlier, there was a significant uptake in the use of insights for strategic workforce planning, and these figures show a continued commitment to the power of data in all aspects of the hiring process.

Given the expectations placed on HR teams by CEOs, there is pressure on HR teams to deliver, and they know that data is the key to producing an efficient process capable of securing the best talent for the business.

A bid for the boardroom

Despite a continued lack of representation from HR in the boardroom, there is increasing acknowledgement of their role as a strategic partner rather than solely an administrative function.

Embracing AI and Talent Intelligence tools can offer more than just efficiency gains. These technologies free up valuable time and provide insights that give HR teams a deeper understanding of workforce trends, enabling them to align talent strategies with broader business goals. This allows them to contribute meaningfully to strategic decision-making processes, which can only be a good thing.