As the world becomes more technologically savvy and data driven, Human Resources, and especially it’s leaders, must be able to adapt and evolve to create dynamic solutions that drive high functioning work environments. Human resources is not what it was 10 years ago. (It’s not even what it was 5 years ago.) The world is changing, and it’s changing quickly. More women are in the workplace in better paying and higher level positions than ever before. Flexible work hours are becoming much more common, if not demanded by the modern workforce. Paid leave and health benefit requirements have increasingly been legislated by governments around the world. These are all great changes, necessary changes, and they require skilled human resources teams to implement and enforce them in a timely fashion, not to mention innovate the processes surrounding them. Because of this, the requirements and skills companies are now looking for in a successful HR leader are not the same as they used to be either. So what exactly does today’s world need from human resources?
Aon Hewitt—the global talent, retirement, and health solutions business of Aon plc—and their advisory group of clients, the Human Capital Leadership Council (HCLC), got together to figure out exactly what companies today need in an HR leader. They interviewed 45 CHROs from across the globe about their journey to the CHRO position. They inquired about how they prepared, what surprised them, how they dealt with different stakeholders, and what wisdom they would pass on to future generations of CHRO’s. They recently released their findings in a new study titled: Learning to Fly.
The CHRO’s participating in the study currently head up organizations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia, giving us some great career insights from a global perspective. The median years of work experience was 26 years, giving us many years of hands on experience and reflection. In addition, one-third of the companies represented are listed in the Fortune 500, giving us a great sample group of highly fiscally competitive environments. Collectively, these organizations represent $1.25 trillion in annual revenue, with 3.35 million employees managed by the CHROs. This study covers a lot of ground.
So what are the most important features necessary for being a successful CHRO? Here are just a few of the key takeaways from this study.
On preparing for the role: Diversity of experience is critical
– Fewer than half of the CHROs came from a pure HR (“Career HR”) background. Those who did took up multiple roles in HR in a planned manner, or sought out opportunities to work in firms that are “incubators” for future CHROs (see callout below).
– CHROs who changed their industries were better prepared for their roles, and rose to the CHRO position more quickly than their industry peers who did not.
On leading up: Have a point of view
– The board and the CEO set the overall strategy for the organization, and look to the CHRO to support that strategy from a human capital standpoint. The role of the CHRO is more nuanced, however. It is not merely to follow orders. If the board/CEO suggests a strategy that will have negative HR repercussions or goes against the employer brand, the CHRO must call that out and suggest alternatives.
– The CHRO must have his or her business hat on and actively keep in touch with current industry trends, to make sure that the HR programs and policies are forward-looking.
On leading across: Be the honest broker
– The CHRO should play the role of a coach to other CXOs, and also that of a sparring partner off whom they can bounce ideas. Rather than becoming a go-between for the CEO and other CXOs, the CHRO must coach both parties to have an open and honest dialogue.
On leading the function: Adapt HR strategy to a context
– The demands of the organization on the HR function continuously evolve. There is, therefore, an increasing need for change management expertise, and an expectation that the function be a source of change management support.
– There is an emphasis on using data to ask the right questions and using analytics to establish credibility with internal stakeholders and the business.
On leading externally: Voice of the firm to the outside
– In a connected world, all leaders of the organization, including the CHRO, are expected to be the face of the firm to the external world.
On leading self: Blend the soft with the hard
– As leaders grow in an organization, their soft skills and competencies become more important than their technical skills, which they have demonstrated consistently.
To read all highlights from the report, please view the following PDF. For the full report, you can download a PDF version from Aon’s site.
Shane Stirling is a seasoned HR & HSEQ Manager in Cairns, Queensland. To learn more about his life and career, please visit his professional website.