P R I O R I T Y 2

Cement their role at the centre of the leadership team

The CHRO has been rising in prominence for several years but the pandemic has thrust the role firmly to the forefront.

PRIORITY: 1 2 3 4

The transition to new ways of working is the greatest management challenge that companies have faced in decades. The challenge is too great for any one business leader.

In our survey


of our respondents say that there is no single executive who owns the future workplace as the topic is too big.

But if there is one executive with the potential to exert a greater influence over changes to the working environment, it is the CHRO. “There is a new topology in leadership teams and they must collaborate and connect with each other in different ways from before,” says Dave Page, CEO of Actual Experience. “The ownership of who does what in this model is still uncertain, but it does seem clear that the CHRO sits at the centre and should take ownership of new ways of working.”

Dave Page, CEO of Actual Experience

CHROs take centre stage

Companies with a strong people leader and HR function will be best placed to survive this crisis and transition effectively to new ways of working that strengthen both business performance and employee experience. People leaders will find themselves tasked not only with their traditional remit of employee engagement and experience - but also the fundamental drivers of business performance: growth and long-term sustainability.

The true people leader

Outmoded views of the CHRO role as a tactical and administrative one also need to be dismantled. “Organisations that genuinely care about their people and see them as a real asset will have a people leader who is focused on engagement, culture, performance and productivity,” says Ms Molyneaux. “Companies that don’t have someone with oversight of these areas are likely to find the shift to hybrid much more difficult, because they have to think about this holistically.”

CEO relationship with CHRO

CHRO relationship with CEO

CIO relationship with CHRO

CHRO relationship with CIO

The CHRO as lynchpin

CHROs must also play a bigger role in co-ordinating the different datasets and inputs that will inform and drive decision-making about new ways of working. This depends on strong relationships across the executive team.

The need for collaboration between CEOs and CHROs has never been greater. Employee experience - and the extent to which companies get new ways of working right - will underpin future business performance. The investor agenda, around ESG as well as business performance, will also increasingly be seen as partially the CHRO’s responsibility. “Social and governance issues, diversity and inclusion sit squarely with the people leader, and if companies can show that they're making progress on those objectives, they're likely to have created interest among investors that leads to a better share price,” says Mr Page.

The relationship between CHRO and CIO will also be critical. CIOs “own” the data about how employees work using digital tools and this will become essential in order to gain a full picture of employee experience in a hybrid model. “The CIO is the obvious person to deliver data to the CHRO and the CHRO should be more receptive to this data, given how digital the workplace has now become,” says Mr Page. “The bond between CIO and CHRO is vital to help CHROs deliver key business objectives during a fundamental transformation of the workplace.”

For CHROs to take centre stage in this way, they need to be plugged into executive and board-level decision-making. Our research suggests that more work is needed here. Only a minority of CEO, CIO and CHRO respondents say that their relationship with each other is very effective. The CHRO/CIO relationship appears to need most work, with 22% saying this is currently not effective.

Break down the management silos

"Companies that emerge stronger from this will be ones that get it right at the executive board level" says Eleanor Phillips, former CHRO at Informa. “Conversations at the executive level are changing. It’s no longer about the CIO bringing one topic to the table and the CHRO another. Agendas are based on an integrated way of looking at processes and ways of working that improve the customer and employee experience. It crosses functional boundaries and doesn’t neatly fall to a single member of the C-suite.”

Work that works

As office locations once again start to reopen around the world, consumer products giant Pepsico is keen to offer its office-based workers as much flexibility as possible. Under a new scheme called Work that Works, employees no longer have a default place of work on a given day. They work with their managers to figure out the best model based on the nature of their role, daily activities and team dynamics. “We see huge potential benefits from this model,” explains Nigel Richardson, CIO of Pepsico EMEA.

“By offering greater flexibility, we are confident we will continue to see high productivity, and low absenteeism and turnover. There is still a role for the office, particularly around innovation and social events, but we want to offer people flexibility because we believe it is better for them and better for the business.”

Nigel Richardson,

CEO of Pepsico EMEA


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