Look around at top corporations today and you’ll see that many of the most successful CHROs don’t come from traditional HR backgrounds. The role of the Chief Human Resources Officer has evolved significantly in recent years, in response to a growing demand for new and broader skill sets. Long consigned to a mid-level staff role, today’s CHRO not only has a seat at the executive table and but is also regularly considered a critical presence in the C-suite. CHROs who rise through the ranks, and especially those who’ve worked in different areas of the businesses they serve, bring an array of perspectives. Here, I present a few of the most valuable.
According to a report from Visier, 80 percent of executives believe their companies “cannot succeed without an assertive, data-driven CHRO.” The senior HR leader must almost think more like a CFO, with a broad perspective on how talent can support or hinder revenue growth and impact the bottom line. And according to an Ernst & Young survey, 80 percent of CFOs and CHROs say their relationships have become more collaborative in recent years. Incorporating learnings and skill sets from finance, legal or operations enables a CHRO to drive a performance-centered talent strategy that generates a return on investment. A firm grasp of the latest talent trends, and the knowledge and experience to ask the right questions, helps align talent with business strategy.
Many candidates won’t even consider a CHRO position unless it reports directly to the CEO. This stems, in large part, from the increasingly critical role of talent itself. When the World Economic Forum asked retired CEOs about their greatest regrets, most mentioned their “inability to make quicker and bolder decision on people matters.” In addition, fast-paced automation and artificial intelligence are quickly transforming the jobs landscape. According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, at least 30 percent of activities can be automated in a majority of occupations. This same report noted that 77 percent of CEOs see the availability of key skills as the biggest threat to their businesses. It’s no wonder, then, that the CHRO has become a trusted advisor to corporate boards and CEOs.
As CHROs have gained influence, their relationships to Boards have also expanded, with many CHROs now reporting to Boards on issues related to executive compensation and total rewards allocations. The new breed of CHRO-who has often served as a trusted advisor to business unit leaders-brings a broader cultural perspective to the rewards conversation as companies shift their performance-based incentive dollars to a more differentiated model for rewarding achievement.
The talent review process has also become elevated along with the role of the CHRO and is an integral piece of the planning process for succession management and overall development assessment. CHROs with insider knowledge often bring a keener ability to identify skills gaps along with strengths, as well as pinpoint growth potential among the company’s talent, and report those findings to the Board.
A CHRO with history in an organization has an advantage over outsiders: deep institutional knowledge. Developing competencies in other roles in the organization gives the insider a multi-faceted track record of performance as well as a broad lens on roles and existing talent. Having lived through change initiatives, culture shifts or leadership makeovers may also provide inside knowledge that can prove invaluable in formulating future talent strategies.
As beneficiaries themselves of high-potential professional development, these individuals have already bought into what it can do for others on the team, and for the organization. They don’t need to be sold on the benefits of talent development. This breed of CHRO is likely up to speed on the latest, most effective strategies not only for recruiting, retention and performance, but also for employee engagement, leadership development, action learning, training and other key aspects of talent management.
Any CHRO, regardless of background, is the champion of a company’s culture. In addition to a keen focus on performance metrics, the CHRO (along with the rest of the C-suite) is responsible for guiding behaviors to align with the organization’s mission, vision and values. Those who know the company inside and out can more easily detect shifts in culture and adjust accordingly, or even engineer complete cultural transformations.
There’s no cookie-cutter profile for today’s successful CHRO, but it’s clear this role now demands more sophistication, business acumen and strategic orientation than ever before.