The strategic CHRO: Redefining talent leadership for the digital age

As a CHRO, your roles and responsibilities are increasingly versatile, complex, and critical to your organization’s growth. Recruiting is just a small part of your role. As a modern CHRO, your focus involves shaping corporate culture, nurturing talent, enhancing diversity, and ultimately, driving bottom-line growth.

In this article, we dive into the ever-evolving role of CHROs as strategic leaders driving transformation across the organization. We also share the eight top skills strategic CHROs need to master. Let’s dive in.

Closing the perception gap

It’s an open secret that the C-Suite has a dated view of their CHROs, seeing them as HR administrators who spend their days managing benefits, paperwork, and payroll issues. But modern CHROs are far more than policymakers and administrators — and the C-level is starting to take notice (and expect more). As executives struggle to keep pace with digital change and economic volatility, 93% of CEOs say they need to evolve their strategy for attracting and developing talent, and they’re increasingly turning to CHROs to help them adapt to new challenges.

“Organizations that can reallocate talent in step with their strategic plans are more than twice as likely to outperform their peers.”
— McKinsey, “The new possible: How HR can help build the organization of the future

By bridging the perception gap, navigating the rapidly changing business landscape, and taking on a strategic role, CHROs can step into a new role as strategists and innovators — and turn each challenge into an opportunity. It might seem like a tall order, but with the right skills, you’ll lead your organization to new heights.

8 skills every CHRO must master to become a strategic adviser

To satisfy the demands of the modern CHRO, you’ll have to focus on eight core skills that will propel you toward success. Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Data analysis and interpretation
In the era of big data, the ability to analyze data and use it to shape strategy is essential. Over 70% of CEOs recognize people analytics as a top priority, but only 13% of organizations have effective processes in place to assess the skills of their workforce. You don’t need to be a data scientist, but developing strong analytical skills and having the right technology will help you understand and communicate data-informed insights that give your company a competitive advantage.

 2. Data-driven storytelling
In the past, when the CHRO presented to the board, it usually meant trouble: imminent budget cuts resulting in layoffs, a harassment lawsuit, or issues with high employee turnover or low morale. But for future-focused CHROs, presenting to the board is an opportunity to tell a compelling story backed by data. With great data-driven storytelling, you give life to your numbers in a way that helps you get buy-in for your key initiatives. It’s an integral part of persuasive communication — and it’ll help you steer your organization more effectively.

3. Strategic thinking
Modern CHROs play an integral role in planning and decision-making within their organizations. They’re no longer administrators, implementing policies handed down from above. CHROs today are the architects of these policies. With strategic management ranking as one of the most in-demand skills for C-level executives, it’s essential to focus on bringing a methodical approach to your work.

4. Leadership
Over the last 15 years, demand for outstanding social and leadership skills in the C-Suite has steadily risen, while the demand for operational skills like payroll system proficiency and familiarity with HR management systems has declined. Top-performing CHROs are four times more likely than others to build successful relationships across the entire C-Suite. Modern CHROs can lean into those relationships to help influence positive change.

5. Business acumen
Knowing the business terrain isn’t optional for the modern CHRO — it’s a necessity. To be a transformative CHRO, you must understand industry trends and market dynamics to align talent strategy with overall business objectives. And developing this business savvy can give you a strong competitive edge, with 41% of CEOs pointing to business acumen as the single most lacking skill they see when sourcing executive HR talent.

6. Diversity, equity, and inclusion
With the most diverse companies now outperforming their less diverse peers on profitability more consistently than ever, DEI initiatives aren’t a “nice-to-have” — they’re a business imperative. As a future-focused CHRO, your task is to build a workplace that integrates DEI deeply into the organizational DNA. That means creating an environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated and has opportunities to grow.

7. Emotional intelligence
To nurture employee well-being, you’ll have to build a workplace that values empathy, understanding, and communication — one where employees feel heard, respected, and motivated to perform. Across all job roles, emotional intelligence is growing in importance, with skills like resilience, self-awareness, empathy, and active listening listed among the most important job skills for 2023. One of the hallmarks of an effective CHRO is developing these skills at your workplace through training and seminars and fostering empathy between managers and employees.

 8. Strategic planning
Strategic talent planning is a core skill for the future-focused CHRO, elevating the talent function from its old-school role of filling job postings to organizational design and planning. Effective strategic planning aligns talent strategy with business strategy and uses analytics to forecast future needs, nurture internal talent, and source external talent effectively. And the results speak for themselves: Companies that practice strategic talent management bring in 26% more revenue per employee than their peers.

Ready to propel your organization into the future with a data-driven, strategic HR approach?

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