The role of the CHRO – evolution and responsibilities

In the modern organization, the human resources team serves a pivotal role that goes well beyond the administrative responsibilities of the past. The aim of HR must be the understanding of human behavior, its analysis through the right tools, and implementing changes in people practices basis an evaluation of different aspects while retaining a focus on core HR principles. And it follows that the CHRO role is critical.

What a CHRO does

The chief human resources officer works closely with the board of directors to cover all aspects of human resource management, including managing talent and planning successions for the C-suite.

According to Alan Guarino, Vice Chairman at Korn Ferry,

“Next-generation CHROs will perform like the CEO of an HR solutions company, enabling human capital solutions for their company. They are not administering programmes. They are creating impact and a return on the money invested in the company’s talent systems.”

A CHRO must function beyond just administrative tasks, demonstrating a solid grip of business fundamentals. This role is the link between the business and its people strategies, and managing human capital with an eye on business considerations is key to helping the organization attain its goals. The significance of this task implies the need for this role to get the same priority as other roles in the C-suite. They do look at all things human in an organization, and they must play a central role in corporate decisions.

Evolution in CHRO role

Businesses and enterprises across the globe are making rapid transformational strides, and the role of the chief human resources officer must evolve in accordance with the needs of present times.

The CHRO must consider several key factors:

  • Higher agility and speed in people management: With the rapid change in work models necessitated by the pandemic, keeping employees productive became very urgent. This is not a temporary change but a pointer to how things will happen in the future, and HR leaders must lead the development of policies, practices, and strategies for this new model.
  • Need for accurate employee data: Acquiring accurate people data has become more crucial and more difficult. Given how distributed a company is, centralized people data becomes important to make confident, timely decisions in the new normal.
  • Managing people expectations: Remote employees do not just take care of work but of several other responsibilities at home, which challenge their time and add to the stress from the pandemic. Human resource management at the top level must bring in best practices and guidelines that balance work accountability and expectations.

In the present era, as an HR leader, the individual holding this role needs to be able to deliver data and insights on talent, the same way a CFO would be expected to on the growth of the business. Partnership on the executive team requires the ability to be a talent strategist as well as a business strategist at the same time, so that the individual can be an enabler in organizations for driving continuous change.

The CHRO role requires being a critical advisor to the board. This goes beyond advising just on compensation, as boards now want to discuss all aspects of talent, and not just executive talent. The actions and contentions of the person must be backed up by data, and culture, diversity, and inclusion are important aspects to work on. Especially with the pandemic raging around the world, the role is now about the health and safety of employees, keeping them engaged and productive, and maintaining business continuity. Organizational adaptability, agility, and resilience are to be prioritized, that too amid a global crisis. The changed role must be accompanied by:

  • Adapting and transcending boundaries in the organization
  • Adopting digitalization as a critical organizational mission
  • Innovating the traditional chief people officer role as per evolved needs
  • Bringing inclusivity and decision science into leadership positions

Looking ahead…

In this era of change, the CHRO must be a provider of strategic advice and counsel to the broader executive team. Scarce resources must be allocated to change initiatives to deliver the best possible results, with comprehensive HR performance metrics supporting the overall agenda for talent management. Planning ahead is important, but the people must be engaged and productive. And policies and procedures must be such that they are sustainable in the long run.


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