Human Resource Management: The Role of Boards

Jay A. Conger (CEO and Claremont McKenna College) and Edward E. Lawler III (CEO)
January 2016

Along with the intellectual and knowledge property they create, human capital has become the most important intangible asset that most corporations possess. Yet surprisingly little corporate boardroom time is spent on human capital issues. Even when boards take important strategic decisions, they rarely consider the overall workforce and talent management issues that are relevant to these decisions. In essence, boards are ‘missing in action’ when it comes to monitoring human capital.

Recent research shows that boards primarily focus on two human capital topics: executive compensation and CEO succession (Conger, 2009; Lawler & Boudreau, 2015). When it comes to boards monitoring most of the talent in organizations, its condition and how it is managed, the situation is very different. Research suggests that boards lack both the HR information and expertise and consistently fail to get them from outside experts, their human resource systems, and HR executives (Lawler & Boudreau, 2015).

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