HRDs to replace CFOs as pivotal to company success

Author Michael Mankins says HRDs will play a leading role in adapting the workplace to a digital workforce

HR directors should take a more pivotal role in the direction of companies, according to the partner of the business management firm Bain & Company Michael Mankins.

Speaking to HR magazine, the author of Time, Talent, Energy said the focus would move away from CFOs ensuring the company has enough financial capital. Instead, in an age where capital was plentiful and often cheap, HR directors would take priority in adapting the workplace to a digital workforce using advanced analytics. This change is likely to occur over the next two to three decades, he said.

“Traditionally, CFOs had the power in corporations because of the limited availability of cash,” Mankins said. “However, cash is super abundant and cheap, and time and energy is scarce and limited in supply, [so] HR directors will take priority."

Mankins said the HRD plays the increasingly vital role of simplifying a company structure and ensuring its most capable employees, or "star talent," are identified and deployed effectively across the workplace.

Talent identification, he said, was a common problem for employers but one which companies were increasingly tackling by defining the behaviours that boost employee performance. Mankins cited the example of Dell Technologies, an organisation that did this by installing a company code that easily identified employee behaviours in line with company culture.

“Most companies employ a model of unintentional egalitarianism when they deploy their star talent across the business,” he said. “However, the best companies are more likely to employ a model of deploying their individuals to essential company roles. This means they can be concentrated on more business-critical roles. In retail, for example, it’s merchandising. With technology companies, it’s the supply chain. To not do this creates allocation problems.”

Mankins added that companies would increasingly look to teach their staff how to become inspirational leaders, something he felt has been overlooked by employers. Bosses will be driven through a carrot and stick effect, he said.

“The carrot is that employers will be able to develop their own inspirational leaders,” he said. “The stick is if your team members perceive you as being an uninspirational leader, this can not only have an effect on the team but also raise questions on whether people should be leaders at all."