The human resources department at your organization is often met with a long list of tasks to accomplish day in and day out.
With everything from recruitment to payroll on their plate, they deserve a leader they can count on in the form of a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO).
Besides a company’s CEO, a CHRO, sometimes referred to as a Chief People Officer, has the potential to be one of the most strategic and impactful positions in any organization, no matter the industry.
At the executive level, a CHRO will manage the HR department while focusing on the development of the organization and how to implement the right policies to ensure the company is efficient for the long haul. While this position is new to the C-suite, it’s a role that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Why your company needs a CHRO
The importance of HR has increased drastically over the recent years, as finding the right talent to grow your organization is often a number one priority. More often than not, other C-suite or senior executives can view the HR department as simply doing administrative tasks or working to remain compliant, but there’s so much more to the department than that.
A CHRO is a business need no matter the size or complexity of an organization. The right HR leadership can do wonders in terms of contributing to business while providing strategic value in the sense of leadership development, organization planning, and people analytics.
When an HR department can focus on the bigger picture, it makes their role in managing performance, benefits, compliance, and payroll that much easier. It also ensures that someone is held accountable for the well-being, development, and professional success of all employees at every level.
Responsibilities of a CHRO
Because this role is somewhat new, the responsibilities of a CHRO can vary. Regardless, here are the main tasks a CHRO will be responsible for carrying out.
Lead the HR department
First and foremost, and perhaps the most obvious, the main objective of the CHRO is to lead the HR department. While the HR team will deal with specific tasks regarding talent management, recruiting, and some administrative work, the CHRO will deal with organizational development, implementing policies of change, and improving the efficiency of the company at all levels.
One of the ways they can ensure effective leadership is to spearhead the talent management initiative to ensure that each department within the organization is filled appropriately and that recruitment marketing is done to attract the best talent out there.
As they lead the department, the main goals should be:
The CHRO will be the go-to person for any employee, whether it’s a personal or professional problem. As the leader of the HR department, employees in all departments need to be able to trust them with their issues and feel confident that they’ll offer up solutions.
Work closely with other C-suite team members
The role of a Chief Human Resources Officer is somewhat new and has quickly gone from fighting for a seat at the table to being a key member of the executive team. It’s more important than ever before that they can work closely with and collaborate efficiently with other C-suite level members of their organization. They’ll be called on as the voice of their department and should be seen as a strategic partner to the CEO and CFO.
Especially with the CEO, a strong relationship shouldn’t be underestimated. Within the role of CHRO, they should position themselves as a partner and constructive challenger of other C-suite team members, while also establishing a relationship of trust. Assisting the CEO to build a high-performing and cohesive leadership team of executives is crucial to the success of the organization.
Stacy Carlone Vice President of Employee Success, G2
Stacy added, "If not, it begs the question of how invested the company is in their people.”
Champion diversity and inclusion
One clear way that a CHRO can create a strong company culture is by being a voice to move forward diversity and inclusion efforts.
This can look like a lot of different things. Maybe it’s started by drafting up gender-neutral job descriptions when recruiting. Or even taking a different look at pay equity and how you access talent. Keep in mind that diversity is more than just race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, but also family stage, marital status, age, geographical location, and economic status.
It’s up to the CHRO to define what diversity and inclusion will mean for the organization, explain why it’s a corporate responsibility, and how it should be carried out throughout the business. Doing so will go a long way in terms of company culture. At the end of the day, people want to join a company and stay for the long haul if they feel they belong in the company as opposed to belonging to the company.
All C-suite leaders are faced with numerous challenges as they lead their departments. Below are some that a CHRO is likely to face.
Finding the right talent
Making sure your organization is equipped with top talent is easier said than done and often the top challenge of a CHRO.
Making the wrong hire can cost the organization not only money but valuable time. From a technical and a cultural side, finding someone that fits within your company and can accurately support its goals can be difficult, and when done incorrectly, people will look to the CHRO for a reason as to why talent acquisition has gone wrong.
In order to address the challenge of workforce planning and hiring, a CHRO should make a more collaborative effort to get buy-in from the rest of the C-suite team to ensure they’re able to procure the staff, and other resources needed to support the HR team in their hiring efforts.
Another potential challenge for a CHRO is ensuring that employees in all departments have a clear career progression. Having a distinct path of how an employee can grow internally shows team members that their organization is equally concerned with their career growth and are interested in finding ways to support them from all sides.
However, it can be difficult to align managers, leadership, and employees to make this happen. While all employees want to grow and further their career, it’s the CHRO’s responsibility, along with other C-suite individuals, to educate them on the available path and options at their disposal.
As the leader of the HR department and the top-tier expert on hiring, retention, and general staff planning, CHROs should lead by example by establishing a clear succession plan for their own team.
Building the right culture
A huge way that a CHRO can ensure the organization retains the best talent is by establishing a company culture that covers all the bases, including boosting employee engagement. A CHRO is expected to build a culture that fosters the right talent, grows performance, enhances learning, and grows internal development. Now more than ever, to keep a productive and inspired workforce, every CHRO and their HR team needs to be looking at employee mental health and wellbeing.
It’s up to the executive leadership team and the CHRO to share responsibility in creating and driving a culture that is aligned with the business strategy, while also keeping the needs of their employees front and center. Remember that needs can change fast, so listening to employee feedback is often a good place to start.
Stacy Carlone Senior Vice President of Employee Success, G2
What makes a great CHRO?
The CHRO role has evolved as the role of a CHRO has become the core of more businesses and industries. Because of this, new skills and abilities are required to help drive the goals and objectives of a business forward.
Some common attributes that are needed to be a great CHRO include:
Understanding the entire business landscape: A great CHRO will understand all of the pieces of the business and how they all need to fit together to achieve success. In addition to the competitive landscape, the leader of the HR department should also understand the needs of the customer, product roadmaps, and all relevant software and technologies.
Building a talented workforce: A great CHRO will need to know that the right people are doing the right jobs. One of the key elements of any HR department is to build a capable team that understands the objectives of the business and how to accomplish them.
Daring to be brave: A leader makes the call, and an HR director must have the audacity to make the right one at a moment's notice. Using their integrity, political expertise, and knowledge of the company, people often look to them to bring their decision-making skills to the table.
Being an advisor: A key part of the role of the CHRO is having the skills to build trusting relationships with people within their organization. This will build trust across varying departments and will use the information they receive from others to better the company and to make smarter decisions for the future.
Drawing on their influence: A good CHRO will be looked to by fellow chief executives and the board of the company to bring the opinion and knowledge to the table. They need to be trusted to say what needs to be said and not back down to let other C-suites know what their opinion is on any important issue. They should be analytical and be able to weigh the pros and cons beyond just the HR perspective.
Staying up to date: In regards to business, political, and social trends, a good CHRO always remains current. They will then incorporate these trends into their suggestions, ideas, and theories when developing goals and plans for their organization.
Understanding company culture: The culture at your organization will go beyond free lunch and holiday parties, and your HR leader understands that. It also encompasses the right strategies, policies, and programs that will attract, develop, and retain employees for the long haul.
What software does a CHRO use?
Software is the lifeblood of any organization, and as a CHRO, the software you use can make all the difference. As a senior executive, they will understand the importance of tools that the HR department needs to use in order to support all strategic efforts.
At its core, HR software will usually have four main elements:
People management: Helps HR professionals manage everything that has to do with employee records. This software usually consists of a self-service portal and can assist in the recruiting process, too.
Workforce management: Assists in maintaining HR administrative data that can be used to manage employee scheduling, time and attendance, paid time off, and more.
Payroll: Integrates payroll features to streamline payroll accuracy, reporting, and compliance, while also encompassing expense management, benefits, salary structures, and more.
Performance management: Help HR professionals to establish performance standards and evaluate performance while maintaining a single source of truth.
All in all, this software is meant to reduce the effort of HR administrators on consistently answering the same mundane questions asked by employees while providing easy to use dashboards where all the information and data that are needed can be accessed. A smart CHRO chooses software that promotes business goals while also making the life of their HR team simpler and more streamlined.
Best core HR software
Core HR software is often referred to as human capital management (HCM) software or human resource management systems. These tools store employee information within its own system of record regarding payroll and benefits data.
HR professionals utilize HR software to maintain profiles for their employees, store pertinent employee documents, and identify any trends with a holistic view of the entire organization. Many applications within this category also feature employee self service options so that internal staff can make changes to their information without disrupting the workflows of the HR team.
To qualify to be included in this category, software must:
Store employee information and documents in one central database.
Enable simple exporting and importing of employee data to be used for reporting.
Allow users to customize employee profiles by using unique data fields.
Integrate with third-party HR applications to pull additional employee information.
* Below are the top five leading core HR software solutions from G2’s Fall 2020 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity.
When it comes to managing payroll, talent, workforce management, and benefits, Paylocity puts everything in one place. HR professionals enjoy this flexible application because it allows them to tackle the biggest HR and payroll challenges that may arise, allowing for a quick solution so they can focus on their goals and other to-dos.
What users like:
“I have used several payroll systems over the years and Paylocity is by far my favorite system to use. It’s intuitive and easy to work with. If I have a question, I am able to get a quick response from my account manager or a customer service team member. Paylocity invests in its products and is always looking to improve the software. I love that they are committed to listening to customer feedback and value the input from the end-users.”
“I would like to see that when items have to be referred outside of the account manager's ability that the answers are more timely and reasons are given. Too many times we have had to wait over a month for an elevated inquiry to be answered. And on occasions, inquiries are not answered at all but seemed to have been corrected through a system update.”
If your company has over 50 employees, ADP Workforce Now is the complete Human Capital Management solution you’ve been waiting for. With elements like HR management, benefits, time and labor management, payroll, HR analytics, and talent management, ADP Workforce Now equips HR professionals with all of the tools they’ll need.
What users like:
“The functionality of the product and the customer service are top-notch! The connection from onboarding through payroll to discharging employees is seamless. I use the analytics dashboard each week to narrow our focus on areas we need to work on and share that knowledge with our Executive team.”
“The reporting is terrible. I find it to be difficult at best to create custom reports and you often need to pay for ADP to build you a custom report. There’s a lack of interface between the various ADP departments. You can easily spend a ton of time on the phone getting bounced from one to another. In addition, if you are not savvy to their systems you can easily miss something by not circling back to another department. For example, if you add a time off code with time and attendance and don’t circle back to your payroll manager, the time code will not payout properly on a paycheck. This happened to me and I thankfully caught it just before payroll went in.”
For smarter, people-focused results, HR professionals choose UltiPro. This cloud-based application aims to improve the employee experience by joining payroll, cloud HR, and talent solutions all in one. It allows for personalized recruiting, efficient onboarding, and role-based access to benefits, career development information, and pay.
What users like:
“One of the best parts of Ultipro is Business Intelligence. You can create and configure reports in so many ways. Being able to analyze data is critical to a successful business and Ultipro has it all. I've used multiple HRIS packages and this one is by far the best.”
“This tool is not so effective when it comes to implementation of compliance. I tried to seek guidance from their customer support but they’re very slow in replying. This can be very irritating when you are stuck at a particular point. Moreover, they should focus on their premium plans, too.”
Workday Human Capital Management aims to be a single source for data, a single security model, and a single user experience. This cloud-based system for both desktop and mobile users encompasses financial management, payroll, recruiting, and more.
What users like:
“Various work-life features are properly segregated and organized, which makes it easier to navigate, as well as use. I like the user profile section the best, as it provides all the necessary details in various sections.”
“There have been some issues loading occasionally when I was working regularly at work with it. Also due to the pandemic, there seems to be issues logging in. But this may be due to a large number of other users doing so at the same time, causing freezing or lagging. If this would be remedied, it would be much better to get through!
Looking for a SaaS company that provides online HR tools for small and medium businesses? Look no further than BambooHR. This cloud-based application helps growing companies track essential employee information while HR managers can access everything they need in one place.
What users like:
“BambooHR has changed our HR headaches to HR productivity, organization, and has improved internal communication. We love the announcement features and the Hiring features. It's an all-around, all in one solution that we are thankful we gave a try. Customer service has been top-notch, too.”
“It’s a bit time consuming to make sure the data of each employee is accurate. The alert options should be improved. The “file” section is less organized. The mobile application lacks a bit in functionality and should be kept up to date. The option to integrate with other tools isn’t very appealing. This application is not suitable for large size companies.”
The effect that the right CHRO can have on your company is clear, and if you want to have a competitive edge, it’s time you gave the leader of your HR department the C-suite title they deserve. Other business leaders are sure to see that they can make a big difference in taking HR processes, and your company, to the next level.
Whether you’re an HR manager or an aspiring CHRO, one thing that’s always top of mind is employee engagement. Discover more about its best practices and the software you should be using to boost performance and productivity.
Mara is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at G2. In her spare time, she's typically at the gym polishing off a run, reading a book from her overcrowded bookshelf, going on walks with her rescue dog Zeke, or right in the middle of a Netflix binge. Obsessions include the Chicago Cubs, Harry Potter, and all of the Italian food imaginable. (she/her/hers)
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