Creating next-generation chief human resources officers

Written by
Rachel Farley & Brad Warga
Heidrick & Struggles

27 Mar 2019

27 Mar 2019 • by Rachel Farley & Brad Warga

Research from Heidrick & Struggles' Rachel Farley and Brad Warga uncovers core capabilities and mindsets of tomorrow's CHROs, with insights from some of today’s most digitally enabled HR leaders.

Serving as a trusted partner to the CEO

FROM Playing a peripheral role in company strategy

TO Commanding equal business influence with others on the operating committee

Shared services and automation will allow CHROs to spend more time on business strategy and culture shaping. “The CHRO of the future will be in a role of extraordinary privilege to everything happening in the enterprise,” said Beth Axelrod, VP of employee experience at online marketplace Airbnb.

Gaining experience outside of HR will be key, given these broader, more prominent responsibilities. “Future HR leaders will be business leaders first and technical HR experts second ,” argued Bina Chaurasia, chief people officer at IT security company Tanium. “The path to CHRO will include rotations into and from other parts of the business.”

Formative experience might also come from working for start-ups, particularly around managing risk and dealing with failure.

Treating employees as digital consumers

FROM Regarding staff simply as people doing their job

TO Considering employees as consumers

“The freeing of the employee experience should be among the CHRO’s main aims,” emphasised Rachel Mooney, a former HR director at Vodafone. Digital HR can bring “simplicity into the organisation; h ow c a n we use tools and technology to free up manual work, duplication of effort, and repetitive and structured work?”

“Employees need to experience digital inside the organisation so they can start thinking about customers in a different way,” added Rose Thomson, CHRO of travel technology company Travelport.

Prioritising agility

FROM Focusing on polished HR programmes

TO Innovating agile minimum viable products

“The organisation is bending and changing so quickly, you have to be prepared for anything and problem solve like never before,” argued Ashley Goldsmith, chief people officer at software company Workday.

The digitally enabled CHRO is comfortable putting forward raw ideas, letting the executive team critique them, and adapting them on the fly. HR ‘verities’ must be left behind and a wide range of stakeholders consulted.

“New-generation CHROs are always asking what they stand for and how that manifests in their work behaviour; they have a growth mindset,” said Louise Patterson, CHRO of consumer goods company Graze.

Employing data science

FROM Using technology to increase operational efficiency

TO Using data to improve employee experience & company agility

HR leaders must use data and predictive analytics to inform the executive team on everything from recruiting capacity to retention to workforce planning and analysis.

“CHROs need a quant on the team who brings the combination of data engineering, data science, storytelling and insights,” advised chief employee experience officer at BMC Software Monika Fahlbusch.

Building a culture that fits technical talent, such as engineers and data scientists, will be essential.

Promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I)

FROM Focusing on diversity in terms of numbers and compliance

TO Nurturing inclusion and belonging of a diverse workforce

While traditional D&I programmes will not go away, CHROs at progressive companies are focusing more on inclusion.

“Companies that embrace diversity and practise inclusive behaviour create a sense of ‘belonging’ that accelerates teams’ performance and enables them to create the best outcomes for clients,” said Jonathan McBride, global head of inclusion and diversity at global asset manager BlackRock. Tanium’s Chaurasia added: “Organisations with a deeper purpose will outshine and outlast the competition - social responsibility, engagement, diversity and inclusion will be increasingly relevant.”

Heidrick & Struggles