CHROs and CFOs: A True Business Partnership

by Connie Costigan | Posted | Business Impact

CHROs and CFOs: A True Business Partnership

How to get mindshare and wallet-share for talent programs

In order to make the mantra of "our people are our most important asset," more than just lip service, managing human capital ("the people side of the business"), needs to get the same priority and focus that's given to managing financial capital ("the numbers side of the business").

Executing this effectively involves ensuring that talent focused initiatives have mindshare and wallet-share at the executive table. I'd assert that this is most effective when there's a great relationship and shared understanding between the head of HR and the head of finance.

Bridging the CHRO-CFO divide

The CHRO-CFO divide may still exist in some organizations, where C-Suite leaders operate in silos, making it that much more difficult to "speak each other's language" when it comes to making strategic business decisions, such as implementing a new talent management program or strategy. The challenge becomes even more complicated when these company leaders believe that their departments are polar opposites when, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

If you're an HR pro who already has a positive, working relationship with your CFO, you're in good company. Saba recently delivered a webinar on Building the Business Case for Investing in Talent Management where Saba's CFO Pete Low and I took an informal poll, asking participants how well they know their CFO. Here's what we heard:

  • 51 percent know their CFO very well and have a good working relationship
  • 33 percent know who they are but have only met them a few times
  • 12 percent never met their CFO because they're locked in their office all day
  • 4 percent wish they never knew their CFO; they can be brutal to work with

It was encouraging to hear that more than half of our webinar participants have established a good working relationship. Studies show that when CHROs and CFOs are on the same page, their organizations experience:

  • 26 percent higher revenue per employee
  • 41 percent lower turnover
  • Increased earnings of nearly 15 percent

Great business relationships are built on trust and understanding. To get past the outdated convention that the CHRO and CFO have competing - or opposed - business priorities, our team took a close look at some of the core strategic competencies of senior HR leaders from the SHRM HR Competency Model, and senior finance leaders from the International Federation of Accountants. We found some amazing common ground that can help elevate that collaboration. Here's a peek at some of those insights and recommendations on what you can do to make these shared role expectations part of your business partnership.

Strategic evangelists

Both CHROs and CFOs must get employees engaged with the company's strategic vision, mission and goals. These two strategic leaders need to understand each other's primary focus and expertise in evangelizing the company's strategy, especially when working together.

Your next move:

This is where you can start to get on the same page (even if you feel like you're not on the same chapter). If you're not familiar with the nuances of your CFO's role, make it a priority. And, of course, it's a two-way street. Make the effort to share your own strategic insights. After all, you're both passionate about your organization living up to its potential!

Performance management rock stars

High-performing CHROs and CFOs need a solid grasp on both the external and internal business environments in order to maintain their respective roles as strong business partners. Remember that CFOs are also people leaders. Stepping into a role that is so heavily focused on performance means that they're always looking for ways to optimize performance at all levels - and in all departments - across the organization.

Your next move:

Separately, CHROs and CFOs understand the complexities and challenges that their business is facing. It's time to combine each area of expertise so that, together, you can direct that keen focus on performance management to make critical decisions that will drive positive business outcomes.

Big picture thinkers

CHROs and CFOs both need a broad understanding of the business as a whole: including its objectives, market forces and resourcing. That makes these C-Suite powerhouses strong collaborators who need to consistently work together with other company leaders in order to navigate change.

Your next move:

It's time to capitalize on that ideally central position alongside the CEO in the strategic management of the company. That establishes the leaders of the "people side" and the "numbers side" of the business as big-picture thinkers who can identify strategic interdependencies. This wide view of the business means they understand the relationship between strategy and market forces, as well as how to resource the company to meet its objectives.

Any #talentmanagement investment first requires alignment between CHROs and CFOs.
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Your organization's dynamic duo driving strategic business outcomes

Effective communication opens the door to informed, tactical organizational decisions fusing CHROs and CFOs into a dynamic duo with the business's best interests at heart. It's important that these two company leaders understand each other's perspective in order to cultivate a more collaborative working relationship between HR and Finance to drive better business performance.

Making an investment in your organization's talent management programs begins with a rock-solid understanding of the problem you want to fix or the goals you want to achieve. But before you start assuming that your financially-focused counterpart would never help green-light your proposal, take a step back and think critically about where you can find common ground on driving better business outcomes. You might find that you have more in common than you thought!

Ready to learn more about how to leverage the common ground between CHROs and CFOs? Download the Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Fostering Collaboration Between HR and Finance that explores these competencies in greater detail.

Bridging the CHRO/CFO Divide

Gain insights into the new expectations and competencies of the CHRO and CFO.


Download Now
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Bridging the CHRO/CFO Divide

Gain insights into the new expectations and competencies of the CHRO and CFO.


Download Now


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