May 14, 2018

7 Qualities Every Future CHRO Should Have


The ultimate career goal for many HR professionals is to land the chief human resources officer (CHRO) title. The value of the CHRO has steadily increased in recent years, and it is now often heralded as one of the most important jobs in a company. Many even consider it a critical stepping stone on the path to becoming CEO.

Before you can achieve the CHRO title, you must understand what the role of CHRO truly entails. Though the specifics can vary across organizations, a CHRO is generally responsible for aligning overall business strategy with succession planning, talent management, employee performance, training and development, and compensation. The CHRO acts as a bridge between the needs of human capital and the executive team.

In a world where talent is the definitive differentiator between companies, the CHRO becomes a key player in transitioning human resources from a cost center to a revenue generator.

CHROs don’t typically engage in the kinds of employee-to-employee, hands-on HR practices that many HR pros do. However, they still advocate for the well-being of employees. Working as a CHRO means working with leadership to develop strategies that balance employee satisfaction and financial impact. This work may involve a great deal of research and administrative tasks, but CHROs still work closely with managers, department heads, and their own teams to identify challenges and offer solutions.

If you’re hoping to hold the CHRO title some day, start cultivating the following seven qualities in yourself:

1. Business and Financial Acumen

This might be a big challenge for many HR professionals, because business and financial concerns don’t typically fall under HR’s purview. However, CHROs must focus on how human capital can best serve the business — and that will inevitably mean creating and reading more than a few profit and loss statements.

People outcomes like engagement and retention are still critical, but the modern CHRO must see the bigger picture. How does talent relate to the organization’s overall success and goals? You don’t need to ignore the needs of your workforce or talent pipeline, but you do need to understand how both of these things impact the business’s goals and financial health.

2. An Affinity for Strategy

As mentioned above, the CHRO must see the organization’s bigger picture, and then they must translate it into actionable, talent-oriented steps. A CHRO must be capable of thinking strategically, prioritizing top-level concerns while remembering to plan for future issues.

At the same time, the CHRO should be willing to do some of the hard work themselves. While the role requires a lot of planning, any good executive will admit that leading by example is often the best approach. Succession planning, staffing new offices, regional expansion, and product development are all areas where a strategic mindset will benefit a CHRO.

3. Leadership Skills

You won’t be able to land an executive-level role without a clear history of leadership excellence. A CHRO should be seen as a mentor and confidante, as well as a respected peer by their executive colleagues. Your fellow executives will need to know they can rely on you for both professional guidance and support in their endeavors to maintain a positive company culture.

4. Board Experience

One survey found that 66 percent of CHROs had exposure to board operations prior to becoming CHROs. Such experience is not always a requirement, but those who have been involved at the board level can better demonstrate their ability to successfully interact with board members.

Furthermore, serving on a board allows a future CHRO to understand all the decisions that go into the everyday workings of a company. The experience can help CHROs better work with board members to balance the priorities of multiple departments, stakeholders, employees, and executives. In public companies, understanding how talent management and HR operations can impact shareholders is essential for the CHRO role.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Having worked in the HR profession for extended periods of time, most CHROs have dealt with a good number of organizational and personal issues. A CHRO must have great communication and interpersonal skills, which require a high level of emotional intelligence.

6. The Ability to Use Data

Modern HR departments understand the importance of HR analytics. According to one survey, 97 percent of HR pros collect at least some HR data. When the right data is collected and analyzed, HR departments can make more informed hiring and managing decisions. A CHRO will need to understand important data points and how they relate to organizational goals. A CHRO should understand HR analytics, including how data is gathered and how potential problems in analytics processes can be solved.

7. The Desire to See Change

Many executive-level employees are tasked with driving change. In addition to driving change, CHROs are also responsible for communicating change to the wider organization. That means you, as a CHRO, should be prepared for the possibility of resistance. It is your duty to overcome objections and get employees on board with positive organizational changes.

Becoming a CHRO isn’t for everyone, but some people can really shine in the role. If you’re interested in one day reaching that level, start developing the above seven skills today.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.

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As head of the marketing department, Sara makes sure that ClearCompany's message, products, and best practices reach and assist as many HR practitioners as possible.