September 20, 2017 Emily Lierle

How Forward-Thinking Organizations Hire For HR Leadership

The HR function is still populated with many leaders who have not made the adjustment to translating business objectives into people strategies. This leaves us in a predicament – are there enough HR leaders with a modern, business partnership orientation available?

Here are a few ways to tackle the challenge:

Identify what you really need (and what you don’t).

Instead of starting your search with a warmed-over version of last decade’s VP of HR job description, gather input from stakeholders and consider what you need from your HR leadership position. Does your company have a small HR team and need a hands-on doer with a business background? Or do you have experts who excel in all HR disciplines and require a leader with an ability to bring C-suite leaders together around strategies? Carefully gathering input from those who best understand the HR role in your organization will highlight the skills your next leader must bring to the table.

Consider a unique path.

The change in HR leadership required today also opens up opportunities for a new way of thinking about the role. While the seemingly low-risk play is to promote or find an existing HR manager or director to elevate into the lead role, consider other business disciplines. At Forrester, the head of employee experience came from corporate communications. We reached out to Hal Halladay, chief people officer at Infusionsoft and a former associate of our chief brand officer. He said, “As HR becomes more strategic, senior HR leaders who have experience in the business operations dramatically elevate the impact of the people function on the business.”

Make your opportunity special.

Our team has successfully placed many senior HR leaders into their organizations, and most of the time, the candidate had multiple opportunities from which to choose. Being highly intentional about the role, how it fits into the organization, and how this will help the company move forward allows your opportunity to stand apart. “We worked with a construction company and attracted multiple candidates from outside the industry,” said Mary Margaret Skelly, our lead search director. “They told us they would never otherwise consider construction, but our focus on the client’s purpose and values (which was apparent from the opportunity profile we sent them) convinced them to consider the role.”

(Excerpt taken from How To Know If Your Next HR Leader Will Drive Your Business Forward by Brian Mohr, originally published on Forbes. Gain more insight into how to hire for HR leadership here.)


Y Scouts, a leadership search firm, finds purpose-aligned as well as performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.