How the New Work Environment Is Shaping the Role of the CHRO

How the New Work Environment Is Shaping the Role of the CHRO

On the final day of the CEB’s ReimagineHR summit in Washington, DC, last Friday, dozens of heads of HR and other HR executives gathered to discuss the future of the Chief HR Officer role. A panel of heads of HR, including Julie Gravallese of the MITRE Corporation, Arielle Meloul-Wechsler of Air Canada, and Pascale Meyran of Michael Kors, made their best predictions about the ways in which their jobs will change and the new challenges that will face CHROs in the coming years. Here are some of the highlights from that discussion:

CHROs Are Being Called Upon to Protect Their Organizations’ Reputations

The proliferation of social media allows crises of any magnitude to impact the brand of an organization. In addition to the external damage this can cause, employees become frustrated if they feel their organization is not defending them. Heads of HR will have to enable their employees to be brand ambassadors, promoting the reputation of the organization with a heavy social media presence. In an era when corporate scandals can develop quickly and generate misinformation, employees need to be equipped with quick facts with which to defend the organization on any platform.

The Magnitude and Frequency of Change Will Be a Continuous Challenge

With entire industries being disrupted on a daily basis, employees will need to show tremendous stamina and resilience to manage change in the long term. Heads of HR need the emotional intelligence to recognize when change becomes overwhelming and which employees are unable to keep up. Continuous change can scare employees who see an uncertain future in the news every day, and heads of HR will be expected to listen and show empathy. It is important to be transparent with employees and tell them that change is expected, even if the final nature of that change is still unknown.

Heads of HR will find that some employees are more willing than others to embrace change and reimagine the careers they will have in the future. Organizations will need to find the employees who are willing to take charge of their own careers and become continuous learners. By finding skill sets that are transferrable to future roles, heads of HR can get these employees excited about capabilities they didn’t know they could learn. This buy-in can create champions of change out of these employees and build a wave of momentum to help usher their colleagues along. But heads of HR also need to be prepared to make difficult decisions about employees who are unwilling to adapt.

CHROs Will Form Partnerships Beyond the CEO and the Board

CHROs will need to work more with CIOs and CMOs as the employee experience becomes digitalized and consumerized. HR will no longer be about creating a unified employee experience, but rather a customized one. This will be a major marketing effort, both to internal employees and externally to potential employees. CHROs also need to recognize that there are no business priorities that do not have an impact on people. CHROs need to partner with the Chief Strategy Officer, and if that does not exist should consider becoming one themselves to influence and shape the strategy of their organization.

Organizations Will Need Partners to Help Them Retrain the Workforce for the Future

Heads of HR will need to empower managers to be front and center in training the workforce, especially as it becomes increasingly decentralized and remote. Getting managers out of the office and connecting them with employees will help them identify who is comfortable with change and has the necessary skill set for the future, and connect those employees with those who don’t. Managers can give employees the tools to prepare for change, but ultimately development will have to be self-managed.

Heads of HR could be looking for communal solutions to workforce retraining. At high levels, organizations are already cooperating on leadership development programs. Heads of HR could start to look to other organizations to cooperate on large-scale retraining programs. Not only would this spread the risk of investing in employee development, it could create more buy-in from employees by giving them visibility into possible future career paths at a variety of organizations.

CHROs Will Need a New Set of Skills and Experiences to Succeed in the Future

CHROs at any organization have to think globally. Even small, regional companies now have to compete on a global scale. Heads of HR have to consider that their talent and customers are accessible anywhere at any time. CHROs also need to start getting on boards, rather than only presenting to them. Board experience is critical to understanding how a board thinks and what challenges it faces. Nonprofit boards present a good opportunity to start getting this experience for CHROs unable to secure a place on the board of a public company.

CHROs need to embrace the multi-generational workforce. Rather than focusing solely on millennials, CHROs should surround themselves with people from multiple generations. CHROs who are influenced by diverse employees will be better able to show empathy and understand employees’ varied needs.

As HR Is Asked to Do More With Less, It Will Have to Sacrifice Some Traditional Functions

Organizational design will no longer be a responsibility of the CHRO. As organizations become flatter and more matrixed, HR will need to develop methods for quickly putting employees together in the right teams to succeed. Although HR needs to become closer to employees and seek to understand them better, employee relations will no longer be something HR can spend time and money on. Heads of HR should be looking to create tools that will help employees help themselves.

CEB Corporate Leadership Council members who want more CHRO-focused insights and tools can find them here.

Click here for more highlights and insights from CEB’s ReimagineHR conference in Washington, DC.