Q and A: Exclusive Interview with MSI’s VP of HR, Chris Courneen

March 3, 2021 by Verified First

Blog_ Q&A_ Exclusive Interview With MSI's VP of HR, Chris Courneen

There’s a perceived notion that HR takes the fun out of everything by over mitigating risk — thank you The Office... While that may have been the “old way” of doing HR, the continuation of HR reinvention requires HR leaders to align with executive leadership, meaning thinking less like risk managers and more like business people. That's why we hosted MSI's VP of HR, Chris Courneen, for an exclusive HR at the Table interview.

Chris answered our top three burning questions:

  1. How do you think HR can (and should) align with executive leadership?
  2. What recommendations do you have for the CEO to see the value in HR?
  3. What do you think of the idea that technology is a means to an end?

Straight from the man himself, here are Chris’s responses on how HR can bring value to their organization by aligning with their executive leadership team

Q: How do you think HR can (and should) align with executive leadership?

1. Speak the language of the business.

“...If you don’t understand the language of the business, then you are going to struggle to communicate with any leadership team. You have to spend the time and invest the time in understanding, ‘what are the challenges the business faces?’”

2. Understand the data and dig into the data.

“When you can sit down and present a story, using the combination of unique skill that HR people pick up in terms of getting people to give us information, being really good listeners, and all that qualitative data, and then combine that with the ability to speak to quantitative data—that's the true power of HR.”

3. Understand the threats of the business.

“You do need to spend time understanding the threats of the business because then you can give context to your ideas that sit within the overall context of the business. If you are bringing up something that is so not relevant to the three biggest problems the business has, you are going to be quickly dismissed.”

4. Align your strategy with the business strategy. 

“We have these core values on this card and I rewrote it for HR... that showed how we support the company’s mission, how we support the company’s values, how we support the company’s purpose. Being able to tie your ideas to real issues in the business is the other important thing.”

5. Get the word ‘no’ out of your vocabulary. 

“We don’t say no. We help people assess things they may not have thought. We are here to help people be successful. We are here to support the business. We are a service function within the organization.”

Q: What recommendations do you have for the CEO to see the value in HR?

1. Quantify the benefit that you’re bringing.

“Spend the time figuring out how to quantify the benefit you bring or the outcome of your work and break it all the way down to dollars. People don’t spend enough time figuring out how to calculate their ROI.”

2. You don’t need to start with the CEO, find another champion within your organization.

“There is likely a champion somewhere in that organization that you can partner with. Once [you can] work together in a way that ended up helping both of [you] achieve positive impact and positive outcomes for the organization, you now have at least one cheerleader helping you now.”

3. Keep a close eye on productivity.

“A lot of legacy HR work is unproductive. HR is viewed as a cost center in that way. If you are in an organization that views your work as a cost center, find a way to reduce your costs.” 

4. Focus less on risk.

“Are we so preoccupied with risk that we are preventing the business from doing the right thing? You are going to start to change some minds about the value you add within the organization when the CEO can see that you are thinking like a business person and not a risk person.”

Q: What do you think of the idea that technology is a means to an end?

“HR and HR technology should be evolving at the rate that the business’s technology evolves. In some cases, ahead of the business’s technology. Streamlining [redundant work] allows our HR team to now focus on value-added work. It allows our HR team to spend less time reviewing paperwork and more time partnering with the organization to reduce attrition. It allows the HR team to spend more time with employees to understand what's going on.”

The big bucket of HR technology works to: 

1. Free people up.

“We have too many people, too many talented resources focused on root tasks and admin work.”

2. Take advantage of big data. 

“The world has learned that the biggest future commodity is data, and we have tons of data about our people. Get into that predictive analytics phase of HR, where you use technology to leverage massive quantities of data to help improve decision-making and outcomes.”


In conclusion, aligning with executive leadership, proving your value to the CEO, and taking advantage of technology empowers the continuation of HR reinvention. 

These Q&As only scratch the surface of the insight Chris shared. For more information on executive alignment, watch episode two of HR at the Table or register for our next HR at the Table episode on The Intersection of Tech & Work!

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