HR executives and other experts share their views on how the role of Chief Human Resources Officer is taking on greater influence within the C-suite and board.

CHRO as Stepping Stone

It is clear that the role of the CHRO is shifting to include new functions and responsibilities – especially when it comes to deploying new technology. But does this mean the CHRO is now on the path to CEO? In fact, 89% of HR executives agree that the CHRO role will become a stepping stone to executive leadership positions such as CEO, with 42% in strong agreement.

For Barry Bloch, Partner, Boyden Australia, the potential for the CHRO to shift into executive leadership positions is contingent on breadth of experience. “Human resources executives who aspire to the CEO role would benefit greatly from time and experience outside of the human resources profession, ideally in operational and commercial roles and environments,” he explains.

While HR executives agree across regions and sectors, those in professional services (91%) and education (92%) are more likely to view the CHRO as a stepping stone to the CEO role than those in industrials and financial services (79%). According to Anna Mitchell, Business, Change and Communications Consultant and former Managing Director, Global Online Business, Coats, this distinction between industries stands to reason. “When a business’s main asset is people,” she says, “it absolutely makes sense to see the CHRO as a potential path to CEO.”

“The career path to CEO is still heavily bent on the financial and sales functions. Any HR professional looking to make the leap to CEO will need to ensure a run in finance as well as sales and general management.”
— Shannon DiPietro, Vice President, Human Resources, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Despite the slight variation based on sector, the amount of time HR executives have spent in their role seemed to have little effect on how they viewed the potential of the CHRO to become CEO. 87% of those who have spent less than five years in their role agree that the CHRO will become a stepping stone to executive leadership positions, compared to 90% of those who have spent five to 10 years in their role and 91% who have served over 10 years.

“The CHRO has influence and plays a significant role in organizational strategy. This influence will continue to increase over the next few years and puts tremendous pressure on the CHRO to deliver. The CHRO should focus on educating managers and executives to get the most out of their teams.”
Birger Svendsen, Managing Partner, Boyden Norway and EMEA Leader, Human Resources Practice

The CHRO’s potential path to CEO has been heavily influenced by shifting business needs, according to Dr. Michael Pütz, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Harting-Group. “The increasing global battle for talent,” Pütz states, “will also help ensure that the role of the HR professional is likely to gain importance in the medium term. In my own experience, hardly any board meeting is conducted without HR topics being discussed. This is different than 10 years ago.”

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

The Chief Human Resources Officer role will become a stepping stone to executive leadership positions such as CEO.

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