An increasing number of companies are looking for a chief human resources officer (CHRO) to head talent acquisition and management functions. The CHRO handles all aspects of human resources from creating an acquisition strategy to selecting talent management software. In addition, the CHRO holds responsibility for all human resources-related compliance issues.
As the field of human resources shifts toward increasing humanization with a growing focus on the importance of personalized relationships with staff members, more companies are recognizing the need for a CHRO. This need is growing as the workforce becomes increasingly comprised of millennials, who want and expect a closer connection to employing organizations than previous generations required.
Different companies will look for a unique set of attributes in their CHRO depending on each firm’s respective culture. However, a handful of traits are necessary virtually across the board. Some of the core competencies required of CHRO candidates include the following:
Perhaps the most important competency for a CHRO is emotional intelligence, which means excellent communication skills and the ability to build relationships quickly and effectively. Emotional intelligence involves empathy and authenticity. These two attributes help build trust between a CHRO and other members of the team. Trust is critical for a CHRO to functional effectively within the organization. A leader’s ability to listen effectively does not mean much if employees do not trust the person enough to speak openly and honestly about difficult issues.
While this trait is probably more associated with the chief executive officer or the chief financial officer, it is extremely important for the CHRO to understand the future of the industry. This knowledge will inform the professional’s development of both acquisition and retention strategies. The CHRO must ensure that the workforce is prepared for changes in the industry, which may mean attracting different types of candidates or encouraging employees to pursue new types of professional development and training opportunities. In addition, business acumen helps the CHRO sell these ideas to the CEO and other decision makers.
Driver of Change
Many companies hire a CHRO to bring change to the organization. When major change occurs, executives need to be able to explain the reasons behind the change coherently and convince employees that the shift is for the best. If employees do not understand why the change is necessary, they may oppose it, and the organization could suffer as a result. Moreover, CHRO candidates should know how to deal with resistance to change when they encounter it. This professional needs to be able to target explanations to different audiences to ensure that all people in the organization are on board or at least acknowledge that the change is necessary for the company to thrive.
The modern workforce is becoming increasingly diversified, and companies want a CHRO with the knowledge and experience necessary to handle such diversity. One of the best ways to show adaptability and cultural sensitivity is to get global experience. In general, diversity boosts employee morale, reduces turnover rates, and creates a more engaging environment. A large number of companies are actively trying to make their workforce more diverse and value an HR professional’s experience with diversity. Global experience can also reinforce a candidate’s commitment to employing best practices. As approaches to HR evolve rapidly, it is becoming increasingly important for leaders to share their experiences and findings not just on a national level, but also across borders.
The CHRO is typically heavily engaged at the board level and often sits on the compensation committee. Many companies require that CHRO candidates have former board experience, but companies that do not have such a requirement will look upon such experience as a major plus. The CHRO should possess strong platform skills and understand how to maintain an executive presence to forge strong, meaningful connections with members of the board. Importantly, the CHRO must also have the courage to stand up to the board and represent the needs of the employees. The CHRO may also benefit from experience with board-level decision processes, such as executive compensation. The board may call upon the CHRO to comment on how executive compensation relates to employee behaviors and organizational cohesion.
While the CHRO does not need the same level of expertise in finance as the CFO, this individual has responsibility for the largest variable cost at virtually any company—the workforce. For this reason, the CHRO needs to understand the basics of business finance and be able to formulate arguments for the needs of the business and its employees. The professional should understand how to read and interpret financial statements and feel comfortable making financial arguments to participate fully in strategic conversations. The board may buck at a new training program, but if the CHRO can effectively demonstrate how the program will ultimately drive profits, then the measure is more likely to be approved.