Here’s a report guaranteed to give any self-respecting HR professional a good case of heartburn: according to a new Robert Half Management Resources Survey, senior financial executives are extending their reach into a lot of other areas of the business — especially HR.
According to the survey of chief financial officers, more than one in four (27 percent) of the CFOs interviewed said they have become more involved in company operations over the past three years. Human resources was the second most common area of expanded responsibility and was cited by 19 percent of respondents.
The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, a provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project and interim basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.
“Financial leaders are becoming more involved”
CFOs were asked, “Which one of the following areas outside of traditional accounting and finance responsibilities, if any, has your role expanded into most over the past three years?” Their responses:
- Operations — 27 percent;
- Human resources — 19 percent;
- Marketing — 17 percent;
- Information technology — 15 percent;
- Sales/business development — 6 percent;
- None/role hasn’t changed — 15 percent;
- Don’t know — 1 percent.
“Financial leaders are becoming more involved in all aspects of company operations, often to ensure greater financial controls across the enterprise and offer input on pricing, cost cutting and business restructuring,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, in a press release about the survey.”Keeping costs in check and nurturing revenue streams are more important than ever in today’s business climate.”
McDonald added, “Financial professionals who want to advance in the organization should demonstrate a robust skill set.” He advised those with leadership aspirations to look for opportunities to build their expertise outside of accounting and finance, such as by volunteering for cross-functional project teams, to gain broader exposure to the business.”
A lack of regard for HR?
That’s all well and good, but the fact that more CFOs are expanding into their organization’s HR operation is not something to point to with pride. Quite the opposite, in fact.
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When HR reports to the CFO rather than, say, the CEO, president, or executive vice president, it tells you that the organization really doesn’t have a great deal of regard for the the HR and people management operation.
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, a guy who knows a lot about how to run a company, frequently makes the point (as he did in 2009 at SHRM New Orleans) that the top HR leader in an organization should have equal status to the CFO, and that more organizations need to push for HR-CFO equality.
Still, I’m not terribly surprised by the Robert Half survey any more than I am by the fact that the new chief executive and leader of the world’s largest HR organization is not a human resources professional but instead is, of course, a CFO. Or as HR professional Kris Dunn put it, “What does this say about (SHRM) when the Board and Korn-Ferry cannot find a human resource professional to serve as CEO out of one-quarter million SHRM members?”
That’s a good question, but as the Robert Half survey suggests, having the CFO get more involved in an organization’s HR operations is simply another sign of our turbulent times — no matter what the business is.