Digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have introduced nuances and complexities that are modifying the role of the Chief Human Resources Officer as we head into the future of work. What does this mean for CHROs in 2020? We find out with insights and recommendations for HR leaders.
In 2019, Korn Ferry surveyed 193 CHROs on a variety of topics to reveal their key priorities and challenge areas.
46% were concerned about talent management, 14% about digital transformation, and 13% about how to create a purpose-driven organization. As you can see, these priorities cover a variety of business areas and require new capabilities from CHROs.
These statistics indicate the complex nature of a CHRO’s role in 2020 and the responsibilities that they must take on starting this year.
We compile insights from some seasoned CHROs for more insights into how CHROs must adapt as the nature of work changes.
The Chief Human Resources Officer of the Future Will Be Tasked With 5 Key Roles. While the designation of the chief human resources officer or CHRO has been around for decades, its jurisdiction has changed dramatically in the digital era.
Today, CHROs aren’t just navigating regulatory norms or organizational policies. Rapid digital transformation makes it critical to leverage the full potential of every resource, and the CHRO’s office is increasingly charged with talent management in line with business goals.
Here’s what leading CHROs from global companies have to say about this evolution, and what it means for 2020.
CHROs will be key strategic partners to CEOs
Spotify’s CHRO, Katarina Berg, says, in conversation with UNLEASH, about the new role of the CHRO: “Today HR is all about building up the business. It’s not supporting the business; it’s not pushing back on the business; it’s not policing the business; it’s actually about building up the business. And here a different type of HR work is needed, and it’s much more strategic, and it’s much closer to the CEO than ever.”
Explaining what the partnership between a CEO and a CHRO must look like, Kelley Steven-Waiss, CHRO of HERE Technologies, a location platform, and founder of Hitch tells us in an exclusive interview, “As the key advisor to the CEO, the CHRO must not only be able to understand the external threats and drivers but translate those into strategies to mitigate risk and leverage opportunities. They will need to be THE steward of change across multiple stakeholders, including the board of directors, shareholders, executive peers, and employees.”
CHROs need to be prepared with responses to the rising human capital challenges that are beginning to arise. They need to earn that coveted seat at the table to help their CEOs prepare for the future of work.
2. CHROs must turn HR into a global, shared function Given the importance of the title, CHROs will be expected to oversee a global, shared function as opposed to the traditional model of multiple, local HR departments with an administrative head.
This requirement of modern CHRO will need them to first understand the current workforce. From understanding multigenerational workforces to an assessment of the employee that needs more flexible work, the CHRO will have to be aware of the nuances of these employees and offer personalization to meet their needs.
We’ve often equated the employee experience with the customer experience, and Steven-Waiss affirms the relationship between the two. She says, “Today’s workforce will be more ‘fluid’ and require a constant balance of the contract, outsource, and full-time. The workers will require a digital experience like a customer, so interactions with systems and processes must be streamlined and intuitive with the same care that is given to consumers.”
Advancements in remote working and digital collaboration will make it easier for CHROs to take direct ownership of globally distributed HR teams, essentially simplifying structural hierarchies. This, of course, is provided they have empowered their teams with the necessary remote work tools in place to manage a distributed workforce. This shift will also demand innovation as an ongoing requirement rather than a once-in-a-year affair.
3. CHROs need to drive upskilling for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Predicting the human capital needs of a business and preparing to upskill personnel for future business needs has always been part of the CHRO’s job. However, this takes on a new dimension in 2020, given the pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Writing for the World Economic Forum’s HR4.0 report, Leena Nair, CHRO at Unilever, says, “The digital revolution is a human revolution. While new technologies are what’s driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, ultimately, it is people who will bring it to life in businesses. As HR
Leaders, we play a pivotal role in helping to lead our organizations to a new future of work – one
that has the potential to be more inclusive, more purposeful and one which can deliver a more positive impact to our people and our consumers.”
While it may not be possible to undertake large-scale upskilling initiatives like Amazon at one shot, it is possible to enable on-the-go learning for employees. This upskilling and reskilling must take place at a rapid pace so employees and businesses can stay in sync with evolving strategies in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
4. CHROs will deploy AI and automation to optimize processes for the entire workforce
Digital transformation has a very clear upside. It will introduce process efficiencies that were previously unimaginable, freeing up human talent. And this isn’t limited to strategic personnel (like team leaders) only. It applies to all levels of the workforce, from support staff to engineers, for example.
This means arming them with AI-powered employee self-service tools, for example, as well as tools like virtual reality (VR) to train them to do their jobs better. Scaling up directly translates into deploying the necessary technology to do so.
“Given the role that HR plays today in maintaining talent resources, one of the most critical aspects of a company’s ability to execute both agile and digital transformations, they must stay abreast of the critical drivers for transformational success. This requires that CHROs ‘look out the window’ and monitor what is happening within and outside their industry,” Steven-Waiss adds.
AI and automation are only the first steps toward simplifying the process. CHROs also need to embrace a culture where innovation and ideation take center stage instead of a protocol-based approach to HR processes.
5. CHROs must upskill themselves
As is evident from these insights, there is no one definition of the chief human resources officer in 2020.
From administrative duties and compliance to strategic decisions and talent nurturing, CHROs need a variety of skill sets to drive the organization in the right direction. As a result, they would require expertise in a breadth of disciplines, while keeping an eye on global, cross-industry HR trends.
“We are at risk of many CHRO’s falling behind as we evolve into the future of work, but it’s definitely avoidable,” believes Steven-Waiss. “As I have said many times, the CHRO will need to become the COO of the talent supply chain and have a mechanism to both forecast skill supply and demand, as well as strategies on how to buy or build more supply based on changes in demand.”
How can CHROs keep up with these demands? “It will require in some cases upskilling in areas like financial management, supply chain management, data science, analytics, market intelligence, that were traditionally more familiar to heads of strategy, operations, and go-to-market roles,” adds Steven-Waiss.
Learn More: 5 Must-have HR Competencies for the 21st Century
The Way Forward in 2020
CHROs and HR leaders must keep up with the dynamic expectations of work, the worker, and the workplace.
Given the recent acceleration of digital transformation – across internal processes and business models – CHROs need to relook at how they approach people management. Steven-Waiss believes that CHROs will manage and maximize talent assets in a manner similar to COOs and CFOs looking after capital assets as we head into the future.
Upskilling in unfamiliar areas, digital expertise, and closer collaboration with the C-suite will be key to achieving keeping up with this role in 2020 and beyond.