More than Half of Leading CHROs are Not Career HR Professionals

With five generations all in one workplace, the workforce of the future will look much different than it does today. As these changes occur, new research from Aon Hewitt shows that HR leaders are preparing in diverse ways to assume this challenging role. More than half of participating Chief Human Resources Officers (CHRO) revealed they are not career HR professionals. Of these, approximately one third had no background in HR prior to assuming their current CHRO position.

Aon Hewitt’s study captured insights from 45 CHROs at leading global organizations. According to the study, the evolving needs of the business, the volatile economic environment, and the changing face of talent are shaping the selection of CHROs, with diversity in experience a key factor.

  • 73 per cent of the study participants have changed their industry at least once in their career. According to Aon, a change in industry leads to an increase in the velocity with which a CHRO aspirant progresses in their career. For example:
    • –  Those who have never changed their industry had an average work experience of 27.5 years, and an average tenure of just four years as CHRO
    • –  Those who have changed their industry more than three times had the highest average tenure as a CHRO, with seven years, and the lowest average work experience (23.3 years)
  • 66 per cent of study participants indicated they had prior Board exposure
  • 84 per cent highlighted executive compensation experience as a key requirement
  • 24 per cent took a rotation or assignment in a line role (outside of HR) to build their business and commercial acumen
  • 67 per cent have worked and lived abroad, and/or led global teams and initiatives
  • 65 per cent indicated “business knowledge” as a key competency they required, but it was also among the competencies for which they felt least prepared

“CHROs have become critical stakeholders in defining the strategy of a firm, and they are expected to tackle the HR challenges and evolving expectations of a dynamic workplace environment that will consist of constant change, calculated risk taking and evolving expectations from top stakeholders,” said Madeline Avedon, associate partner, HR Effectiveness, Aon Hewitt. “Those well-equipped to achieve the greatest success will have diverse skill sets, be adaptable and agile, and gain hands-on learning from working through real life situations and acquiring knowledge across disciplines and industries.”

Must Have Skills for CHROs
When participants were asked about some of the emerging capabilities that future CHROs will need to be successful, six key themes emerged:

  • Data- and analytics-based decision making.
    Don’t focus on giving the right answers, but on asking the right questions.
  • Being the architect and assessor of shifts in organizational culture.
    Make sure a company’s culture is moving in the right direction by ensuring leaders’ styles align with the cultural goals.
  • Proactively mapping organization capability needs to the future strategy of the firm.
    Examine the gap between existing capabilities and the ones needed in the future.
  • Playing the role of an internal and external talent scout.
    Build the critical ability of spotting pools of talent, using a mix of intuition and data and assessment backed insight.
  • Understanding the Impact of technology.
    Be cognizant of the rapid progress in HR technology, particularly SaaS solutions, to improve HR processes and analytic capabilities.
  • Asking organization-specific questions rather than following the herd.
    Realize how different practices can be best applied to their own organizational contexts.

“HR is used to helping other parts of the organization with succession planning and leadership development, but could improve in the area of developing its own leaders,” added Avedon. “To build a strong bench for the future, HR must work on creating an environment conductive to the growth of future CHROs from both within and outside the function. It must also look for ways to help CHROs of the future pick up critical experiences that matter in the CHRO position.”

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