Meet HRPAO’s new boss

Questions and answers with Bill Greenhalgh
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/09/2006

The Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario has been through a lot of changes in the past year. The association overhauled its governance structure and long-time CEO Dan Stapleton resigned. Recently Bill Greenhalgh, former CEO of Thomson Newspapers — Western Canada, former president of the Globe and Mail and former chief operating officer of Shred-it International, assumed the helm of Canada’s largest professional HR association. Canadian HR Reporter sat down with Greenhalgh to find out what his plans are for HRPAO.

Q: What do you bring to the association?

I’ve always been a customer of the HR function and I’ve always been a great believer in its potential effectiveness. I suppose the thing that always kind of surprised me about HR is that they never seemed to be at the table until right at the end and I always thought that was quite criminal. If you ask just about any corporation what their distinctive advantage is, they’ll talk about their market and their technology but at the end of the day they’ll say ‘People are our greatest strength.’ There are some enlightened companies around now where the HR function and the senior HR people are a part of the executive suite, they’re part of the strategy formulation and they’re involved right up front in terms of the planning.

Companies need to be planning now for two, three, four years down the road in succession planning and training and development of people because at the end of the day, that’s the common differentiator between good and mediocre companies.

Any company that is looking to be successful going forward has to pay a lot of attention to their employment practices and policies and how they hire and develop employees. When companies have a good name as an employer, they get people who are looking for careers. When they don’t have a good name, they get people who are looking for jobs. There’s a fundamental difference in the calibre and quality of people.

Having good HR plans and programs with development and training and succession planning is absolutely critical, and any company that doesn’t have programs in place to do that would be foolish, absolutely foolish. So that’s what I bring — a strategic and operational understanding of how businesses function and a strong belief in how HR can play a very strong role.

Q: What are your plans for the association?

I want to make sure we do as much as we can to help raise the value and the visibility of the HR function within companies and ensure they participate in the longer-term strategies, the business strategies of companies, that it’s not just the kind of function where they put job descriptions together and compensation plans. I think it’s so important that they educate companies on the need for concrete succession plans. A lot of people understand the need for it, I’m not sure that a lot of them do it well. I think that’s where HRPAO can help support the members and help them be central to the business strategy of the organization.

Q: What are your responsibilities as CEO?

I’m responsible for the day-to-day operation and like any CEO in any company, I’ve got responsibility for making sure we have the right staffing, that we manage to a budget and the programs we put in place and we implement are in line with the priorities set by the board. I think the governance model we have, within HRPAO, is probably better than 99.9 per cent of organizations and companies. It’s something the board has spent a long time on. It’s very straightforward, very clear.

Q: In a previous interview with CHRR, HRPAO board president Gerlinde Herrmann said the association wants to attract more senior HR executives. Why is it important to have them as members?

One of our goals is to be a thought leader in the HR arena and some of these people work for some companies that are really very advanced in their HR thinking and it’s great to get their thinking and their views so we can share those throughout the profession itself. They’re also good role models and mentors for people coming along. When people see HR as a route to the C-suite in organizations, then it attracts them into the profession.

The executive forum has been very successful. It’s an invitation-only, four-times-a-year discussion where we talk about strategy and corporate governance.

There are certain areas of the HR arena to do with governance, to do with strategy and to do with corporate social responsibility that are of very strong interest to the people at the senior level of HR in organizations.

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