In his keynote address, Peter Walmsley, VP of Human Resources, COO Worldwide, at Electronic Arts spoke about the importance of the HR-CFO-CEO alliance.
Walmsley began his keynote presentation at the 2016 CFO Leadership Forum held in San Francisco on January 20 by explaining the importance of the CFO-HR alignment and what makes it work. “I refer to my relationship with my finance partner as a ‘holy alliance,’” he said, “because it’s about the relationship between the CEO/business lead, the CFO/finance lead, and the HR lead. This is one of the most crucial alliances in organizations for driving the business forward.” Walmsley emphasized that such an alliance requires real understanding from each partner about the other partners. The CEO must value the input of both the CFO and HR leads and seek guidance from both. The CEO needs to drive and encourage this collaboration, stated Walmsley.
“I refer to my relationship with my finance partner as a ‘holy alliance,’” he said, “because it’s about the relationship between the CEO/business lead, the CFO/finance lead, and the HR lead. This is one of the most crucial alliances in organizations for driving the business forward.”
“From a finance perspective, what makes this work is having finance people capable of broad, strategic thinking, rather than focusing just on the numbers,” said Walmsley. In his opinion, HR needs to do a better job to become a trusted partner with finance. “For me, this is about growing people in HR who are capable of having that broader perspective about the organization and moving away from the focus on policy.” Traditionally, finance focuses on the numbers and HR focuses on policy, he pointed out. HR needs to move away from that and truly understand the business, what drives its success, and how HR can align itself to contribute to that success.
To assure this alliance is balanced, HR has to be data friendly, said Walmsley. If HR wants a seat at the table with finance and business leaders, it has to be comfortable with data. Also essential in driving the alliance is trust. Trust is based on understanding what your partners are doing, said Walmsley, and it’s up to the CEO to assure this happens.
Walmsley then presented an observation from Ernst & Young’s Master CFO Collection: “High-performing companies are achieving closer alignment between the corporate strategy and the human capital strategy.” Walmsley’s work for the past several years has focused on understanding the strategy of his organization and how the human capital strategy aligns with that. In the same way, finance must understand how the human capital strategy links in to what the company is trying to achieve.
“I believe HR and finance leads need to be seen as one, in some cases,” he said. “We come from different perspectives and have different views of the world, but we’re jointly involved with the CEO/business lead on particular issues—the business strategy, the workforce plan, reorganization, and restructuring. This is where the HR-CFO-CEO alliance can be really powerful.”
“I believe HR and finance leads need to be seen as one, in some cases,” he said. “We come from different perspectives and have different views of the world, but we’re jointly involved with the CEO/business lead on particular issues."
“It’s important to take time to build the collaboration between HR and finance. It’s obvious to people in the organization when HR and finance are engaging regularly, having good dialogue, and have a good relationship.” HR and finance need to share data and insights. An example of this is developing models and using data to determine why people are leaving an organization, where they’re going, and how to plan for this.
“It’s critical that HR regard CFO and business leads as peers,” stated Walmsley. “Each partner’s task is to work together to make good decisions for the company. An open and transparent relationship is essential to forming this alliance.”
ABOUT PETER WALMSLEY:
Peter Walmsley is VP Human Resources for Electronic Arts supporting the Sales, Marketing Execution and Operations groups on a worldwide basis as well as being the lead HR business partner for the Finance; Legal and HR functions. Peter is originally from London and joined EA in Geneva, Switzerland four years ago and relocated to the Bay area in February 2013. Peter has worked in a variety of senior global/regional HR positions latterly for Fidelity in Europe and prior to that worked as a Management Consultant in the UK as well as a Head of Learning & Development for a Division of American Express Business Travel.