Why HR Leaders Shouldn’t Be Virtual Employees

Jason Hanold, CEO and Managing Partner of Hanold Associates, shares why HR leaders should be onsite—not remote.


When I speak to CEOs about the importance of company culture, they discuss why they need to be transformative leaders and move their companies in a positive direction.

While the CEO, of course, has a significant impact on company culture, today’s HR leader is responsible for driving it.

HR leaders have their finger on the pulse of the day-to-day culture while getting live-time feedback from leaders and managers. If a company is going to reach its employee engagement goals, a strong HR department will be the reason.

That’s why HR leaders should be on-site—not remote.

HR is a body contact sport. If you don’t have contact with employees—especially your most important leaders, such as the C-suite and key managers—you’re not nearly as effective. Engagement is a discretionary effort we bring to work every day. It’s hard to get a sense of how people are feeling if you’re not interfacing with them each day. Instead, you’re left with email and connotations that go with that. There’s no substitute for being there in person.

For example, I witnessed the transformative power of a strong HR leader when we worked on a search for a utility company that had just endured a tragic accident. The company admitted the deadly mishap was caused by its culture, specifically communication problems involving top executives throughout the entire company.

We helped the leadership team hire a new Chief Diversity, Inclusion & Talent Management leader who was primarily responsible for transforming the culture. She fundamentally removed communication barriers and knocked down silos throughout the company. While an internal investigation resulted in some longtime employees being asked to leave because of their contribution to the toxic culture, she helped lead an effort to limit the brain drain of experienced employees who still took great pride in their company.

It’s experiences like that one, and many others, that show the strength of HR leaders and the need for them to continue to take the pulse of the workforce, every day.