CHROs Have a New Role (They Just Don’t Know About It)

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When the CHRO job function first entered the market, people saw it as a watershed moment for HR. Many said that it validated the true purpose of HR: to create a strong people strategy and support the overall business objectives.

Many observers imagined CHROs leading the HR department to become more strategic and less operational. Others felt that CHROs would be a true partner of the CEO, right alongside the CFO. After all, without money and the right people, what business can succeed, right?

The truth is more sobering. There are many CHROs in the market, but their job scopes are varied. And so is their perceived influence.

While many helped to etch out new people strategies in the wake of the pandemic, many are still broiled in departmental turf wars. And the pandemic workload on HR operations meant that they had to double down on HR operations and become more tactical.

Shifting the focus to companywide

How can CHROs get back to their strategic job and become business partners?

A recent IDC Future of Wok Asia/Pacific report, “The Chief Human Resource Officer's Role in Enhancing Employee Experience in the New Normal,” offered some tantalizing clues.

It noted that demand for talent with the right skills for the digital age will continue to be a key defining factor for business success. To help their companies, CHROs will need to shore up their skills in several critical areas to deliver on the demands of the CEOs.

They include identifying and retaining top talent, creating a solid recruitment pipeline, and enabling an environment for creative and productive employees. And to do this, they need to get closer to the company’s IT strategy — both in the type of tools to use and technology that CHROs can leverage.

It means that CHROs can no longer just leave these decisions to the IT or digital team. Instead, they need to take the lead in many of them impacting employees.

The report noted that the benefits of doing so “will dictate the difference between merely surviving in these challenging economic times, versus those that are managing to thrive due to strong employee experience programs that enhance the productivity and loyalty of employees.”

Widen the scope for effectiveness

The CHRO job scope is also evolving fast. As they become critical for developing holistic workforce strategies, they need to get more involved with business planning and strategy, assume additional responsibilities in learning and development (L&D) and participate in IT decision making.

These will become vital as companies plan for the post-vaccination era. CHROs will then need to reexamine how and where employees will work, how work structures will be organized, what talent management technologies will be required, and, overall, how new work requirements will be addressed, the report noted. The results can help the CHRO develop a holistic strategy and a work practice to:

  • Enhance employee experience
  • Encourage human-machine collaboration
  • Empower the workforce with technologies that meet their work requirements.
  • Continue to attract and retain the best talent

The HR department’s role is also shifting. Its objective is no longer limited to the “modus operandi of talent management processes.” It needs to start focusing on “creating the right working environment and empowering employees for future enterprises to achieve their organization's digital transformation (DX) goals,” said the report announcement.  

“2020 clearly not only demonstrated the need for a digital-first business strategy but also highlighted the scarcity of good talent in this critical area. The CHRO's role will have to change to address this talent shortfall through improved employee experience (EX) programs — which must be heavily biased toward digital excellence, talent retention, and reskilling/upskilling of suitably motivated employees,” said  Simon Piff, vice president of the practice research group at IDC Asia/Pacific.

“Organizations must also be deeply involved in understanding the application of a broad range of technologies – both within and beyond those used in the realm of human resources (HR)," he added.

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