As businesses navigate disruption and change, CEOs face pressure to find new ways to drive growth. Tight labor markets and talent shortages continue while high skill gaps still make it more difficult for organizations to find skilled workers, thus prompting leaders to accelerate their efforts and find new paths to growth. Eighty-nine percent of CEOs expect their CHRO to play a central role to find these new paths to long-term profitable growth.

Recent Accenture research found that by utilizing data, tech and people, companies can increase profitability and revenue, but only 5% of organizations are positioned to tap into all three levels as data, tech and people champions to grow and accelerate change. So, how can companies harness this success? Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) can play a crucial role in unlocking this growth by developing skills and driving impact across the enterprise and, with the right conditions in place, can fuel tech-driven insights and foster collaboration like never before.

To accelerate this change and find new paths for growth, forward-thinking HR leaders need to navigate the rapidly changing talent landscape while balancing operational shifts, enhancing employee satisfaction and organizational culture, and preserving the company’s attractive image to potential hires.

A high performing CHRO is the key to successfully integrating each of these into their respective business.

The CHRO as a Growth Executive

A CHRO is a growth executive who operates at the heart of their company. They view data, technology and people through both a wide and telescopic lens to bring unseen opportunities for growth into focus. Further, a CHRO is someone who makes an impact in every part of the company, leading across the C-suite, and remains a key player in enterprise strategy, according to Gartner.

With an advanced skillset and optimal environment, these CHROs make an impact in every department of the company, collaborating with executives across the C-suite to accelerate change for the enterprise. To identify a high-performing CHRO, companies must look for individuals with strong skills and connections in data analysis, digital technologies, talent and change management, strategic thinking and communication. These CHROs will align with the business agenda and objectives rather than creating a typical “HR” agenda.

For example, Ferrero, a chocolate confectionery company, has used digital transformation and focused on its employees to drive growth by implementing an integrated cloud-based HR system. This strategy improves employee experience, equips leaders and employees with data to work smarter and increases executive visibility into workforce talent. By utilizing the advanced skillset of a high performing CHRO, 80% of the workforce accessed their profile after the launch, showing the impact of technology and people on driving innovation and growth in the company.

Supporting the CHRO

Studies have shown when CHROs have an optimal environment, their CEOs are more than twice as likely to say the HR function is exceeding their expectations in terms of discovering business value through the company’s people. To create and foster this environment, C-suite leaders must prioritize people, personal accountability and challenge CHROs outside their HR purview, allowing involvement in areas such as capital allocation and product innovation to source talent and unlock people’s potential.

Leaders are encouraged to break out of their confined spaces and collaborate to discover new methods of utilizing technology and data to drive broader change and innovation. Donna Morris, Chief People Officer of Walmart, explains that the role of a leader is becoming more like an architect. In order to drive growth in certain areas, the leader may need to divest in others and put more focus on prioritized areas.

Putting the Forces of Change to Work

Investing in a high performing CHRO allows companies to identify areas where different functions intersect and value is hidden, and for the CHRO to think and act beyond their traditional role. For example, Francine Katsoudas, Cisco’s Executive Vice President and Chief People, Policy and Purpose Officer, thinks of her role as being focused on anticipating market transitions and understanding the business strategy and how it intertwines with the people strategy to accelerate growth for the company. By understanding that success is a recipe that intertwines tech, data, and people, Cisco is fast-tracking change for its people, its business and its communities.

CHROs can also create a platform for opportunity by utilizing the possibilities of data, technology and people. Kerry Dryburgh, Chief People Officer of BP, found that employees who work for talented team leaders are 15 times more engaged than those who see their team lead less often and receive less feedback. By inspiring collaboration, CHROs can help organizations consistently meet goals and prepare for transformation. 

It’s now clear every C-suite leader should be talking about how to tap into and empower the CHRO as a growth executive. However, reaching the 5% of companies that are putting emphasis on the digital core and talent creation requires bold leadership from every member of the C-suite, because unlocking growth through data, technology and people is only achieved together. By providing the right conditions and resources, CHROs will drive growth and profitability while helping organizations reach a new standard of success.

Brian Kropp is Managing Director, Talent & Organization/Human Potential at Accenture.

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