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Why you need to buddy up with HR

Rebecca Merrett | Aug. 28, 2013
There's an obvious reason why CIOs and HR managers should get together.

It may not be the department traditionally tied with IT, but it does manage the organisation's most valuable asset, people.

Equally, with technology underpinning almost every business and industry in some way these days, organisations will struggle to keep up without their IT capability. So there's an obvious reason as to why CIOs and HR managers should partner up.

IBM's global CEO survey for 2012 found 71 per cent of respondents see the people within their organisations as a key source of sustained economic value, which makes a partnership between human resources (HR) and IT a worthwhile pursuit. So why aren't CIOs and HR staff automatically strong allies?

"Fundamentally IT and HR people think differently," claims Ross Forgione, CIO of Johnson Winter & Slattery Lawyers. "I'm a very logical, processing thinking person and you need that characteristic in IT and as a CIO." Facing HR people who tend to be more emotionally-driven and focused on soft skills can therefore be a challenge.

"CIOs need to have their minds open enough, perhaps have that moment where they realise 'I can't just be a logical animal'," he says. "They need to have connections, soft skills and not just work within the very rigid and refined space which is IT."

Kelly Fischl, principal consultant at HR consulting company Coaching Ink, lays the blame for disconnect between the two departments to their lack of understanding about different priorities. IT, for example, might push to deliver a new technology, whereas HR might be cautious around how it will affect company culture and staff.

Forgione agrees, saying CIOs and HR managers need to better understand what each other's role is in delivering on business outcomes. "Logically we are seeking two different outcomes. You really need to understand what the benefits are that each department brings to the organisation, and you actually need to work side by side to get better outcomes for the organisation."

IT people also tend to look at people and processes in a 'black and white' way, he says.

"Perhaps IT still takes that approach of 'you have come to me for something and I'm going to give you this, you will fit into this mould' which creates tension," Forgione says. "It is also very difficult to do a great job if you are just looking at your department in an isolated way."

Tackling staffing issues
It is worth pointing out why CIOs and their IT teams should be mindful of the important role HR plays in their organisation. According to PricewaterhouseCooper's 2013 Global CEO Survey, filling talent gaps are the top investment priority for 27 per cent of all CEOs over the next year, followed by implementing new technology (26 per cent).


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