The Importance of Strategic HR for CEOs | Mark MacLeod

September 28, 2022 - Mark MacLeod

The Importance of Strategic HR for CEOs

Back when I was a CFO I took immense pride and purpose from sitting at the right hand of my CEOs helping them succeed. In fact, through all of my roles, that has been the driving force for me and is why I am a coach.

The CFO tends to be the only other exec who has the same 360-degree view of the company that the CEO does. You see strategy, financial position, board dynamics, etc, etc.

When I started in the tech world, HR was not considered strategic. In fact, in my first three CFO roles, HR reported to me. The industry has come to realize, thankfully, that HR is truly strategic. I actually believe that strategic HR can and should be the true right hand of a CEO.

Why strategic HR matters

It’s all about people…

Every issue and opportunity in a company ultimately comes back to people as its root. And complexity correlates pretty linearly with headcount. Despite all the technology, AI, automation, etc. that we now have, it is still all about people.

Whether it is hiring, retention, engagement, culture, or identifying high-potential team members, we are always thinking about people.

I have encountered and worked with many HR leaders over the years. I can literally name two people that I consider to be truly strategic and truly acting as trusted right hands to their CEOs. Two people in 23+ years. That is discouraging!

Benefits of strategic human resources

A truly strategic leader can and should deliver the following benefits to your company:

Hiring: Build a candidate-producing machine for hiring the best of the best, filling your funnel so that you always have a surplus of great candidates and a warm bench for replacements.

Retention & Engagement: The right HR leader will be a trusted and relied-upon advisor to your entire leadership team helping them develop the right programs to retain your people and drive their fulfillment and engagement.

Development: The challenge for people (at all levels) in a high-growth company is to grow as fast as (or faster than) the company. Tobias Lutke, CEO of Shopify always talks about having to re-qualify for his job every year.

Rather than just hope that your staff rise to the challenge or rely on replacing those that do not, what if HR developed programs to go beyond hope and systematically grow your people? Few companies do this well.

There are many more dimensions here but I am sure you get the picture. Product and distribution of that product are the core functions of a company. While other functions are in support of that, nothing happens without people.

Embracing strategic human resources leadership

I would argue that getting people right is actually a prerequisite to getting product and distribution right. Make your HR function as strategic, important, and impactful as product and distribution in your company, and watch the magic happen!

HR strategy questions to consider

What is my assessment of the HR function in my business? Is it truly strategic or just in support of other aspects of my business?

Am I satisfied with our recruitment engine? Are we getting great candidates on time and filling every role on time?

Am I satisfied with the programs we have in place to retain and engage team members? How do our attrition rates, employee NPS and other measures rank relative to comparable companies?

Do we have great programs to systematically grow and develop our people, especially our high-potential team members?

What is our level of regretted turnover (people we really did not want to lose)? What can we learn from that?

Is my HR leader part of my inner circle? If not, what needs to happen? Can this leader step up? Or do I need a new leader?

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Your journey is never done

Sign up to my newsletter and join an inspired community of leaders who realize that the journey to achieving their full potential is never done.

    If you’re curious about my coaching and deal work you can learn more here.

    back to blog

    Latest Blog Feed

    Balancing Business Growth, Family, and Hockey Ownership with Kyle Braatz

    Join me for an inspiring conversation with Kyle Braatz, founder and CEO of Fullscript, as we delve into his journey from competitive hockey to disrupting the healthcare industry. Explore the Transcripts for Key Insights from this Episode Mark MacLeod:This week […]

    read more

    Building High-Impact Leadership Habits with Fellow App CEO Aydin Mirzaee

    Embark on a fascinating discussion with Aydin Mirzaee, CEO of, a company that takes productivity to the next level, reducing meetings and connecting all business’ apps. Discover key insights from this episode through its transcripts. Mark MacLeod:In this episode, […]

    read more

    The Emotional Rollercoaster of Startup Leadership and Balance with Robbie Bent

    Don’t miss out on my conversation with Robbie Bent, the visionary co-founder and CEO of Othership, a transformative space that combines sauna, ice baths, breathwork, sound, and community to redefine wellness in urban settings. Robbie Bent’s story is not your […]

    read more


    Email :

    Follow me:

    Mark MacLeod ICF Member

    Send Me A Message