Leading in a disruptive world

Four takeaways from the 2018 Next Generation CHRO Academy

Posted by Tom Morrison and Joanne Stephane on August 10, 2018.

The lead trend in the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report is for the C-suite to act as a unified “symphonic” team, rather than a collection of functional specialists. Moving out of traditional silos and applying the collective expertise and experience of the entire executive team is seen as the most effective way to solve complex, multifaceted problems.1 At Deloitte Consulting’s annual Next Generation CHRO Academy, a select group of Chief HR Officer-aspiring HR and business leaders convened to focus on what it means to be this kind of decisive, influential C-suite leader in a world of ongoing disruption.

The role of the CHRO has probably evolved more than any other C-suite role over the past 20 years. What used to be a back-office role has evolved into a true seat at the table. By virtue of their focus on people and culture, CHROs have an opportunity to be a symphonic C-suite conductor of sorts—a leader that brings the C-suite together to help drive their success as a leadership team. In fact, HR Leadership’s ability to create shared vision and direction is a statistically significant predictor of high-performing HR functions.2

With that opportunity in mind, aspiring CHROs used the Next Generation CHRO Academy to discuss topics central to their development as executives.

Considering the board’s-eye view
A company’s board of directors has a unique perspective on the workings of the C-suite. Deloitte LLP Chairman of the Board (and former lead of US Human Capital practice) Mike Fucci shared his insights with Next Generation CHRO Academy participants, noting that effective leaders are characterized by being respected advisers, with the courage and willingness to say no and challenge norms, and the ability to be a public friend and a private critic. Fucci noted the CHRO’s top priorities to be leadership, culture, risk, and, above all, agility.

Key takeaway: Tomorrow’s CHRO strives to reimagine organizational culture while driving the business through capability, influence and worker experiences. To be effective CHROs must upskill continuously, and leverage agility to respond to evolving workplace dynamics.

Communicating with impact
At a team session on communication, leaders stressed the importance of communicating intent, and the ability to frame messages in ways that dial down challenging topics so discussions can be more productive. Leaders also sought guidance on balancing authenticity with the need to maintain an executive presence. Employee perspective was seen as critical, with the need to consider what employees see vs. what they hear from leaders.

Key takeaway: For CHROs to create impact and effectively represent the voice of the employee, they should understand how to synthesize organizational strategy and key priorities, and then convey the big picture to the workforce with clarity and confidence, as well as a defined plan for action.

“Building” yourself first
Before aspiring CHROs can become a true partner to the CEO and fellow C-suite members, they should first build their own skills as strong, values-based leaders.

Key characteristics of values-based leaders include:

  • The ability to drill down and “keep it simple;” use common sense, start leading right away—before having any direct reports, and present both issues and solutions.3
  • Taking time for self-reflection on the value of what they’re doing (realizing that activity does not always equal productivity).
  • Fostering a balanced perspective, making time to understand all sides of an issue.
  • Focusing not on being right, but on doing the right thing.
  • Exhibiting self-confidence, without being egotistical or complacent. This includes the confidence to say “I don’t know” and admit when they’re wrong.
  • Being humble: remembering where they came from and reflecting on how they got where they are…Timing? Teamwork? Talent?

Key takeaway: Becoming a CHRO is a journey. If leaders become their “best self” first, they will be better able to lead and build an effective team.

Forging the crucial relationship with finance
In many ways, the CHRO and CFO are the CEO’s right and left hands, and their two functions must work closely together to increase their value to the organization. CHROs should make understanding CFO’s needs and concerns a priority, including:

  • Having a talent agenda for finance, which includes exporting finance talent to the rest of the organization and help with building soft skills, such as influence, in finance professionals. In turn, HR needs finance’s help to gain better understanding of and visibility into the value-creation levers that HR can influence.
  • More effective decision support from HR, based on real data and insights from a single source of truth (not anecdotes) regarding headcount, metrics, workforce planning, and the like.
  • Simplified HR business processes and cohesion between human resource management (HRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP).
  • A direct link between the two functions, either by having a Business HR professional in finance or a finance professional in HR.

Key takeaway: HR and finance should have an aligned discussion to determine how to collaborate and deliver solutions and help drive the business to effectively balance—and manage— human capital needs.

Be bold—together
One of the key messages of the “symphonic C-suite” trend is the need for senior leadership to function as a team. Next Generation CHROs need to be bold to step into their role as a valued business partner. In the same way, facing important people issues such as the future of work is not simply a task for HR, but for the whole C-Suite. Upcoming research from BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP will further explore how HR can lead the C-suite to create a shared vision for addressing such important business issues and for executing plans to make these visions a reality.

Our thanks to all of the Next Generation CHRO Academy presenters and participants who shared their organizations’ journeys and their personal insights to create a valuable development experience for all.

Tom Morrison is a principal in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, helping clients fully leverage the value of their talent investments. He is co-dean of Deloitte’s Next Generation CHRO Academy.
Joanne Stephane is a principal in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, focused on HR Transformation, helping clients drive organizational performance through talent. She is co-dean of Deloitte’s Next Generation CHRO Academy.

1 Dimple Agarwal, Josh Bersin, Gaurav Lahiri, Jeff Schwartz, Erica Volini, “The symphonic C-suite: Teams leading teams,” The rise of the social enterprise: 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends.

2 High-Impact HR, BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP/Jeff Mike, 2017.

3 Harry M. Kraemer, From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership,” John Wiley & Sons, March 10, 2011.

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