The Expanding CEO Role in Talent Acquisition

Effectively running a business, leveraging technology and making strategic decisions remain top priorities for today’s executives – but so, too, does human capital management. Lisa Maxwell, founder and managing partner of executive search firm Gerard Stewart, joins us to discuss how talent issues have suddenly landed on the CEO agenda.

April 3, 2019 – Talent management has reached new heights. Its value across the enterprise has risen to unprecedented levels of importance, a direct correlation to the state of the employment market but also, arguably, the natural evolution and elevation of human resources.

“The innovation and widespread adoption of HR technology across the human capital ecosystem has sophisticated the talent acquisition and management landscape,” said Lisa Maxwell, founder and managing partner of Atlanta-based executive search firm Gerard Stewart. “Even the front-line role of the recruiter has elevated beyond measure – now, they are employment branders and strategists, and they’re equipped with more data and capacity than ever before. This is enhancing their value in the enterprise and optimizing talent acquisition results, capabilities and deliverables.”

What does all of this have to do with the C-suite? Effectively and efficiently running a business, leveraging technology and making strategic decisions remain top priorities for today’s executives. But so does human capital management, Ms. Maxwell said. “What once may have been handled solely by the human resources department of yesteryear has officially made its way to the C-suite – in importance and in relevance for executives,” she said.

Where We Are

The last time the unemployment rate was this low Neil Armstrong was landing on the moon and gas cost 35 cent per gallon. The unemployment rate currently stands at 3.8 percent and the U.S. has experienced 101 consecutive months of job growth. In addition, salaries are rising, the talent market is getting tighter, and the value and importance of having a strong employment brand and strategy is increasing.


Lisa Maxwell is responsible for many of the senior executive and board-level placements across the talent acquisition, human capital management, HR tech and private equity space at Gerard Stewart. Named as one of the 100 most influential people in the staffing industry three years running, she has spent the past 20 years curating her network of industry leaders and visionaries while building her executive search firm.


“Ultimately, however, a company’s culture, employment value proposition (EVP), and the people these attract starts at the top,” said Ms. Maxwell. “Given the state of the market, talent management and many of the responsibilities thought once solely to live within HR have migrated over to the CEO agenda.”

Related: Skills Shortages Causing Recruiting Difficulties

“Despite all of the advances in HR technology and the fact that talent remains one of the most powerful predictors of business performance, it’s still not something a lot of businesses are getting right,” Ms. Maxwell said. According to Gallup research, companies are failing to choose the candidate with the right skills for the job 82 percent of the time, presenting a major concern for HR but also the business at large.

Of the top concerns plaguing today’s CEO are “HR issues” like reskilling and how technology will be used to create clear pathways for employees to contribute more to the enterprise. In PwC’s 21st CEO survey, they describe today’s executive as “the anxious optimist in the corner office.” Globalization and technology continue to top environmental concerns the C-suite is navigating, but so are these less-than-typical “HR issues.”

Related: Why the CEO / CHRO Relationship Is Essential

“CEOs are responsible for and that impact so much of what the business is able to accomplish,” said Ms. Maxwell. “Rather than dismiss talent management as an HR problem or a key initiative for talent acquisition teams to figure out, informed CEOs understand that employee engagement, growth and development start with them.”

Head of Business and HR

By convention, the search for, and management of, top-tier talent has been the purview of the human resources department. But Ms. Maxwell said that given the talent market and the increasing need for accountability in these critical areas of business performance and success, such changes have prompted CEOs to assume more active participation in talent management. “Making skilled workers feel valued and appreciated – where career pathing and access to opportunities across the enterprise are made clearly visible – is an important executive message, and it’s a tone that is set by the CEO,” she said.


Gerard Stewart focuses on recruitment for C-suite executives in the human capital space, including for private equity firms, HR technology, HR services and talent solutions companies. The firm advises client companies on recruiting and retaining leaders and helps mitigate the risks involved with senior-level appointments. Gerard Stewart has completed engagements across the global human capital landscape. Its client list includes organizations in staffing, workforce management, human capital consulting, information technology services, vendor management software, recruitment process outsourcing, managed service providers, professional services and outsourcing.


“If the chief people officer or chief human resources officer is not in the boardroom, they should be,” Ms. Maxwell said. “Second to managing the P&L, creating human capital strategies has become the most significant responsibility of the CEO – trumping marketing new products, turning around struggling business units, and even general operations management.”

“The most effective CEOs have a clear view of their present and future talent needs – and they have it mapped out for at least the next five years,” she said. “They have implemented talent management processes to uncover gaps at all levels and have aligned their business and talent management strategies as one.”

Human capital has far-reaching implications, and its impact is affecting virtually everything coming out of the corner office, said Ms. Maxwell. “Having the right person in coveted positions, like the CHRO – just like all positions within the enterprise – is increasingly more important,” she said.

Related: CHROs Undervalued by CEOs Despite Growing Influence

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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