HR Leaders: We Need More Support to Prepare for the Future

Diverse Leaders

HR leaders say their C suites aren’t providing the money and resources they need to keep up with the changing nature of their role. Yet at the same time, CEOs give HR more credit for moving forward than many CHROs do.

According to a report, The Future Chief People Officer, by SHRM’s HR People + Strategy executive network and Willis Towers Watson, 94 percent of HR and corporate leaders say it’s important to accelerate the development of future chief people officers. However, just 35 percent say CPOs (whom we equate to CHROs) are receiving the development they need.

HR leaders need more resources to prepare for their future role, but CEOs seem to think they're doing a fine job, thank you. @WTWCorporate @HRPS #HR #HRTech Share on X

And despite the prevalence of technology throughout HR operations, only about a third—36 percent—of CPOs are prepared to think about how technology can be used to get work done in the future. Just 25 percent believe they have the technical knowledge to evaluate new technologies.

The idea of CEOs and CHROs being out of step on such issues isn’t new, of course. In September, Gartner reported that sourcing and recruiting was the top talent concern of CEOs, even while 62 percent of CHROs said their company’s talent strategy didn’t align with its future workforce needs.

“With disruption on the horizon, organizations will require strong, visionary people leaders who can think through the people and talent strategy, and work with management on the business strategy,” said Suzanne McAndrew, Willis Towers Watson’s global head of talent and a study co-author. “Unfortunately, as our research shows, most CPOs are not prepared.”

That’s a problem when the workplace is changing so rapidly, observed SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alexander Alonso. “CPOs sit at the intersection of innovation and growth within organizations with significant impact on all fronts,” he said. Influencing the enterprise’s transformation requires HR executives to build up their expertise.

HR Leaders Must Teach CEOs

This doesn’t mean HR leaders need to be quasi-CIOs. However, “they must understand how changing technology can impact work and the workforce,” said WTW Managing Director Ravin Jesuthasan, also a co-author of the study.

Interestingly, CEOs give HR higher marks in some areas than do the CPOs. For example, 51 percent of CEOs have a favorable view of the progress their organization’s made toward adopting consumer-like HR tech. Just more than a third—36 percent—of HR leaders agree.

A like amount of CEOs, 51 percent, are pleased with the transition from “episodic training to perpetual reskilling,” compared to 31 percent of CPOs. And 43 percent of chief executives see favorable progress in using data to drive decisions, compared to 27 percent of HR executives. 

That makes us wonder if CHROs aren’t getting the resources they need because corporate leaders believe they’re already doing a pretty good job. In the real world, after all, executives must walk a fine line between putting the proper spin on their accomplishments and asking for help addressing long-horizon efforts like leadership development.

It’s not surprising that SMEs like HR executives are more critical of their function than less-expert chief executives. However, it does indicate that CHROs still have a lot of work to do to educate those higher up.

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