The subprime mortgage and financial crisis of 2007-2010 could have been called the “Era of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO)” – a pivot and increased focus on the importance of having the best leader in charge of all things financial. Now at the beginning of 2022, the pandemic, politicization of almost everything, partisan media, masks and mandates, a new emphasis on “diversity and inclusion” and a remote workforce brings us to the “Era of the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)”.
Are you adapting?
The impact of COVID-19 and the new variants continue to adversely affect the talent market, revenue, and business solvency. “Two weeks to slow the spread” turned into semi-permanent remote work, blurring the lines of the private and personal lives of employees. The start of a new year and a brand-new survey by OnePoll will again shake up corporate America, as nine in 10 employed Americans say they are excited to return to the physical workplace. Arguably, we are experiencing the most complex business human capital environments ever seen in modern corporate America.
All of which combines to make this, “Era of the Chief Human Resources Officer” – the CHRO.
As we stated in our book, “The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent,” to be among the great companies, having a strategic Human Resources team led by a business-focused and savvy CHRO is an absolute requirement. In US military Special Operations, what makes special operations “special” is the talent and the talent ecosystem itself. One can’t imagine any scenario where talent isn’t at the center of Special Operations planning, recruiting, assessing, training and mission execution. Analogous to this, it is no longer acceptable to view your CHRO as a mere sub-function within the organization, no longer acceptable to pay them 1/3 of their C-Suite counterparts (on average) and instead, a time to gain a competitive advantage in your space by having the best possible, strategic, business-focused and people-centric CHRO. As we say in the book – “A-players and leaders at every level” especially when applied to your CHRO are the center of the storm and focal point for all things talent, culture and performance.
Mike and I, and our many contributors, stand by this argument, but to be honest, we did not realize how prescient our position would be as we wrote the manuscript. Now, more than any time we can recall, lacking an “A Player” in the CHRO seat, is a sign of continuing troubles for your company.
How to Find Top Talent
As we come out of the pandemic, we are seeing consistently and broadly: the scarcity of top talent, the reticence of hourly service workers to come back to services-based roles, the dilemma to require vaccinations and whether to keep the mask guidelines in place, the challenge of a new remote workforce or the challenge of how, when and to what degree to create a flexible workplace environment. These tasks, these critical action items all land in one place – the desk of the CHRO.
On episode #003 of The Talent War Podcast: “Leadership Really Is Everything- Time to Step Up”, I challenge every CHRO to step up beyond their job responsibilities start mobilizing teams towards actual growth and innovation. Individuals who are good at this role can connect the customer experience and the employee experience. Hence, being able to tell the story and value behind the entire process.
Zoom etiquette and camera-shaming are the new work catch-phrases with human resources departments tackling the herculean effort of educating employees on effective communication techniques. HR warriors stepped up to lead companies across the business continuum through disruption to continue production. These same HR departments are now dusting off the cubicles to welcome back employees into the office. While remote working may have forever changed the office paradigm, the OnePoll survey suggests that two-thirds of employees “want to meet new coworkers and catch up with their old ones, while 48% are looking forward to in-person meetings. It appears that the ability to pivot quickly is the new normal.
The criticality of the CHRO could hardly be clearer – reason #1 to have a true leader in the role, an A-player, one of character and vision. A driver, one with “effective intelligence,” provides and leads solutions where no book or best practice existed before.
2021 has given us ample evidence. The argument couldn’t be more potent for CHROs to STEP UP and INTO leadership and leverage their total value – their experience, ideas on talent strategies, and DRIVE the narrative and solutions.
HR isn’t “at” the table any longer, as Tracy Keogh (former CHRO of HP) says, “HR IS the table.”
And now, it’s their era to define.