Hiring your boss: HR’s role in recruiting CEOs

Do they have the authority and power to hire their own bosses?

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During one of our tea break conversations in the office, a very interesting query arose in our minds. Who hires the CEO of a company?

Each one had something different to say on the matter. From a logical point of view, hiring falls under the jurisdiction of the HR function and requires the involvement of the HR heads of the company. But a look at the situation from this side brought to mind a very hard-hitting question. How can someone hire his own boss? After all, within any corporate hierarchy, don’t all the CHROs report to their respective CEOs?

Suddenly, the subtle tea conversation began to grow hotter than the tea, when everyone was asked to hold their horses. Instead of indulging in endless arguments, it was decided that expert opinion should be sought.

Nihar Ghosh

“It totally depends on how that person is positioned in the organisation or what his/her stature is. It depends on the years of experience and the kind of portfolios the person has held and the organisations he has worked with”

HRKatha started contacting experienced HR folk for the answers to their questions.

Nihar Ghosh, president-human resources, Emami shared his views With HR Katha.

“It totally depends on how that person is positioned in the organisation or what his/her stature is. It depends on the years of experience and the kind of portfolios the person has held and the organisations he has worked with. If the board finds that the person is fit to play a leading role in the CEO’s hiring process, then the CHRO has the decision-making power and is part of the selection process as well. But if the board thinks that the HR head cannot lead the hiring process, then he has to play a supportive role, which includes coordinating with the search agencies and planning out the on-boarding process. However, in the hiring of other C-suit members of the organisation, the HR head does play a leading role and has the decision-making power.”

Looking at the above response, it is quite clear that in some or the other way CHROs do have a role in the hiring of CEOs. But one question still remains unanswered. How can a CHRO hire his own boss?

Emmanuel David

“The situation may differ in case of a group CHRO. In this case we can have CEOs in different verticals of the business, which will make them the CHRO’s colleagues. But in the case of hiring a group CEO, the group CHRO will have no decision-making powers”

Emmanuel David, director, TMTC, Tata Group Human Resources, shared with HR Katha that the situation will differ with the kind of designation the HR head holds.

David shares, “In my own career I have never come across a case of a CHRO hiring a CEO to whom he/she is to report. The situation may differ in case of a group CHRO. In this case we can have CEOs in different verticals of the business, which will make them the CHRO’s colleagues. But in the case of hiring a group CEO, the group CHRO will have no decision-making powers. In such a situation, the final decision lies with the board, chairman or the MD. The CHRO only plays a supportive role in the whole process by giving suggestions to the board, interacting with agencies and filling the blind spots in the hiring process. The CHRO can use psychometric tools to aid the hiring process. But as a group CHRO, you do have the decision-making power in hiring the various vertical heads of the business.”

Krish Shankar, group head, human resources at Infosys mentions to HRKatha that the involvement of the CHRO varies from company to company and the kind of reputation the HR head shares with the board.

Krish Shankar

“Generally, the group CHRO plays the role of giving different perspectives, creating better information and evaluating everything”

Shankar says, ” When it comes to hiring the CEO of the group, the decision-making powers mostly lie with the board and the chairman and the involvement of the group CHRO differs from company to company. Generally, the group CHRO plays the role of giving different perspectives, creating better information and evaluating everything. But for hiring a lateral business head, the group CHRO plays a decision-making role where he carries out the interview process and presents the shortlisted candidates to the board.”

For all the aspiring HR leaders who want to make a name for themselves in the HR function, this will prove beyond doubt that the position of HR head may promise a lot of challenges and adventure, but you may still not enjoy the authority or liberty to hire your own boss!

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