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HR Technology and the Modern Day CHRO

We’ve all see the increasing role HR technology plays in today’s modern workplace.

Whether it’s the use of blockchain to verify and secure employee data or the numerous ways artificial intelligence can streamline HR processes, there’s no denying the fact that we’re in the midst of a “big bang disruption” in the world of human resources.

And it’s not just the technologies and processes that are changing — organizations recognize that with the wealth of data available to HR teams today, there’s an opportunity to redefine roles and responsibilities from the top down.

Yes, that means CHROs.

But while some areas of business — including sales, for example — may have reason to worry about the longevity of their department in the face of evolving technologies, CHROs should rejoice:

HR technology enables CHROs to play an increasingly important role in the growth and direction of their companies.

Not because they have to in order to survive — because business leaders want CHROs more involved in strategic planning and decision-making processes.

will you be on my team

In a poll conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, 76 percent of business leaders said they currently have or want their CHRO more directly aligned to business strategy versus general workforce administration tasks.

It’s part of what James Allen and Sandy Ogg call “CHRO 3.0”:

“CHRO 3.0 is about the role of the CHRO professional as a leader in the business, especially during big business transformations when time frames are compressed. Yes, we still need to ‘run the shop’…But we also need to lead…We also need to assess the company’s organizational readiness for change and help tackle the big issues that will hamper business transformation.”

In other words: today’s CHRO plays a more active role in aligning the business for growth, rather than passively executing on decisions made without their consultation.

But how did we get here? How is the role different? How can current CHROs adapt?

That’s what I’m breaking down for you in this post. To start, let’s look at the evolution of the CHRO role as a whole:

Here’s How the CHRO Role Changed to What It Is Today

It wasn’t long ago that HR executives acted as little more than basic workforce administrators.

We hire the talent when business leaders tell us to…

We facilitate basic people functions like payroll…

And we manage organizational guidelines like training manuals and safety handbooks…

That’s it.

Naturally, that left many HR leaders feeling like this:

this is boring

But, as HR technology evolved, so did the role of the CHRO.

New tools introduced ways for HR teams to automate, streamline, or outsource many of the administrative functions that defined an HR leader’s role and responsibilities in the past.

In short, HR technology freed up time for HR leaders to focus more on business strategy and less on administrative functions.

At the same time, a competitive market for top talent (particularly in the tech industry) converged with now-historically low unemployment numbers. Investment in new business ventures is at an all-time high…

vc all time high 2017

(image source)

…But, acquiring (and retaining) the right talent to fuel growth has become increasingly difficult.

Business leaders recognize now more than ever the vital role a well-crafted workforce strategy plays in the overall success of their company.   

And to be clear: the very definition of “workforce strategy” evolved, too.

It’s about more than developing a recruitment strategy and an employee rewards program.

It’s about putting a spotlight on employee experience as a whole and working to build an employee-centered company.

Focusing on culture has tangible benefits:

performance culture benefits

(image source)

And so that’s where the CHRO role is going today. It’s the reason why companies are transforming CHROs to CEEOs (Chief Employee Experience Officers). The role isn’t about administrative bureaucracy. CHROs are now steering the ship.

(For a really cool glimpse at what a day-in-the-life of a modern CHRO might look like today, check out the intro to Workday’s white paper “The CHRO of the Future.”)

And here’s the good news:

CHROs have the resources they need to make it happen.

Thanks to big data, there’s no disconnect between demands from the C-suite and what a good CHRO can deliver.

Attracting, retaining, and optimizing a workforce is now a data-driven process — not a matter of guesswork.

The team over at Limeade put it perfectly:

“These days, decision-making in the C-suite is all about data…Organizations are looking beyond traditional processes to better understand how to use data to shape workforce strategy and drive employee engagement…CHRO decisions ranging from turnover to compensation, now rely heavily on data. This means that the future of well-being and engagement programs depends on a CHRO’s ability to make the case for engagement and defend its viability with data.”

Simply put, the modern CHRO needs to analyze data and make proactive decisions that support business goals.

According to that HBR study I mentioned earlier, that’s exactly where most CHROs want to be spending their time:

chros want strategy

(image source)

Which leads us to the question:

How Exactly Do CHROs Make the Transition?

All of this can understandably feel a better overwhelming.

After all, many CHROs worked their way up to the role as part of the old system. The idea of change — especially after so many years focused on process and procedure — can feel disruptive.

But, that change is a good thing overall. And no one in a company is better equipped to manage that change than the person responsible for learning and development (hint: that’s you).

Here are a few tips to help you succeed:

  1. Invest in the right technology.

Find the right tools for your business to collect, manage, and analyze employee information. Focus on solutions geared toward your business size and current needs with great integration capabilities. Consult with other HR leaders and your company’s CTO on the best options.

  1. Get the buy-in of the entire C-suite (but especially your CEO).

Having the entire leadership team on board with the expanded scope of your role and responsibilities helps. But at the end of the day, the most important relationship for a CHRO is with the CEO. The CEO defines the vision, mission, and values for the company — all vital components when a CHRO goes to develop their own strategy. Alignment between the CEO and CHRO means a mutual agreement on desired outputs and a shared game plan for how to get there.

  1. Focus on results.

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious here, but any good business leader knows that ROI is a critical component of keeping any new strategy around for the long-term. Want to invest considerable funds into developing a better candidate journey? Great. Just make sure you’re tracking metrics (like time-to-hire) that demonstrate why the investment was worthwhile.

And that’s it…

As HR technology continues to evolve, so will the role of the CHRO.

We’re already seeing massive transformation where HR leaders now have a seat at the decision-making table. But the sky’s the limit for how this role might continue to grow in importance in the future.

How have you seen the CHRO role change in the last few years? What do you think it will look like in a few years?

Let me know in the comments below.

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