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, and importance of, having the best leader in charge of all things financial. The investments, value, and revenue of firms that were impacted by the housing market collapse required creativity, experience, sound judgment, and above all else, strong leadership from CFO’s.
Are you adapting?
Fast forward to 2020 and now, 2021, with the impact of the pandemic, its impact on labor and revenue, and businesses remaining solvent, having a top-tier CFO has again come to the forefront of every company. But when you couple the pandemic with a highly polarized US electorate and the recent presidential election, a collapse in the standards of the corporate entertainment media complex, a partisan social media environment, an ever-increasing blur between the professional and personal lives of employees, and an increase in the desire for more “Diversity and Inclusion” programs and leaders – these all combine to make this, the “Era of the Chief Human Resources Officer” – the CHRO.
As we put forward 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 a requirement. Knowing that what makes special operations “special” was the talent and the talent ecosystem, it was no longer acceptable to view the 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 having your CHRO spearhead the drive for acquiring and developing the absolute best talent. “A-players and leaders at every level” applied to HR.
Mike and I, and our many contributors, stand by this argument, but we did not realize how prescient our position would be as we wrote the manuscript.
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. Some having to do a 180-degree turn and come back to offices, companies feeling the need to respond to events outside of their workplace, and this list continues to grow. This list, well, lands first on the desk of the CHRO.
On episode #003 of The Talent War Podcast: “Are You Actually A Leader, or Just A Play-Actor?”, my co-host Tom Lokar and I, challenge every CHRO to step up beyond their job responsibilities and start mobilizing teams towards actual growth and innovation. Individuals who are good at this role are capable of connecting the customer experience and the employee experience. Hence, being able to tell the story and value behind the entire process.
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,” providing and leading solutions where no book or best practice existed before.
2021 has given us ample evidence, and the argument couldn’t be stronger for CHROs to STEP UP and INTO leadership and leverage their full value – their experience, their 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.