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HR: How to Communicate with Your CEO?
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altLast weekend, when having dinner with an HR manager of a well-known IT company in China, I asked him what he thought of his position in the company. Since we are old friends, he was quite frank and gave me an example. He said, “As you know, ‘dinner culture’ is very popular in China, especially in our industry. I’m often invited for lunches, suppers and cross-sectoral gatherings. Sometimes I’m a little late, but they will all wait for me, including the leaders of other departments. I usually talk a lot during the dinner no matter what the topic is. It is not that I want to talk that much, but that others will lead me into the conversation. Last Monday, I attended an enterprise development conference for senior managers on behalf of the director of our department. Throughout the conference, I barely got the opportunity to speak. Even when I tried to say something, the seniors just looked the other way. When the discussion was finished, they told us what our department should do in areas, such as recruitment and assessment. That was the end of the conference, and that was our ‘position’.”
This is, in my opinion about the most interesting part of the HR department of Chinese enterprises. On the one hand, the HR department is highly respected in China and regarded as a department that cannot be offended. This has a lot to do with the fact that, as a department in charge of staff, the HR department is an important source of a great deal of the company's internal and confidential information. Besides, it gets to know something about salary, welfare, personnel appointment and removal in advance. Thus, everybody is more or less afraid of the HR department. For instance, recently, in a world-renown pharmaceutical company, the HR manager of a branch company in China was forced to resign for using confidential information to seek personal interest. 
altOn the other hand, since the HR department is not a production department and doesn’t create profit directly, it seems to be treated as a subsidiary to the product from every angle. According to a recent telephone survey conducted by RMG Selection, 70% of the respondents did not consider the HR department as a strategic department. As many as 40% to 50% thought that the HR department was similar to an administration department in small and medium-sized companies. It seems that the HR department doesn’t get involved in the strategic management of the company, reducing it’s importance.
Nevertheless, in my experience of co-working with successful Western enterprises, great importance is attached to the HR department owing to its contribution to areas related to business, rather than its role as 'personnel manager'. In England, most HRDs and vice-presidents in charge of human resources act as the business consultants of the company rather than directors within the HR department. In such companies, the HR department is established as a centre for sharing and consulting, providing comprehensive services—from recruitment to personnel training, from external market brand to internal cultural exchange, from personnel to business. In my opinion, this is a comparatively ideal development model for the HR department.
altNow that we have a clear idea of the position of the HR department, it is easier to understand HRDs’ position on the company’s strategic conferences. Based on the current situation of China, the starting point is to understand that the HR department is an interdependent department in terms of strategic function. Here, 'interdependent' refers to an independent and interdependent relationship. For most of the time, the HR department treats itself as an independent entity, but consciously or unconsciously, it also engages in the 'relationship', so hardly manages to act independently. Therefore, in high-level meetings, it is crucially important to take a firm attitude of 'not being afraid of being independent'. As plenty of information about the company is in the hands of HRDs, the HR department is able to make a more comprehensive and in-depth analysis of problems than other departments. In order to make use of the independent position of HRDs, three main principles should be followed: 
1. Do not abuse power. The HR department is responsible for welfare, salary, personnel appointment to and removal from the company, but the staff of the department ought not to misuse this information. The HR department is the provider of service not the controller of the company. 
2. Do only what is right for the company. This is far easier to say than do. It requires a comprehensive and repeated consideration for every problem, from the perspective of every department, in order to prevent any measures that may do harm to any sector of the company. 
3. Set the bottom line. Confidential and unreliable messages and information which may have a negative effect, cannot be revealed under any circumstance. 

By Robert Parkinson, CEO & Founder, RMG Selection 
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