Today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving business landscape is driven by disruptive forces in the form of a multi-talented, multigenerational workforce and technological advancements that challenge HR to constantly redefine talent management strategy and deliver sustained profitable growth. While HR on its part holds the primary responsibility of building a high performance culture within the organisation, this culture itself is largely driven by the change that has permeated the organisational framework of the 21st century.

“The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.” – Jack Welch

This statement couldn’t be truer than in the context of a people-led corporate ecosystem we have today. The survival and success of a business depends on the strength of its talent pool and it is here that the role and importance of a Chief HR Officer (CHRO) comes into focus. Over the years, people have asked me about my perceptions on the evolving role of HR. One of the foremost challenges I have seen HR leaders face is how to effectively utilise technology to fuel talent management initiatives and lead the managerial game in addressing the needs of a multigenerational workforce. Modern day CHROs need to understand the demographic and technological factors at work and tailor their talent management strategy to sync with business goals.

The rise of the new age CHRO

With the war for talent intensifying like never before, the CHRO today has a strategic role to play in managing top talent – the key differentiating asset in any organisation. In a disruptive world where volatility and uncertainty are inescapable, talent management covers within its ambit a lot more than the traditional HR scope of work. While old school human resource management functioned in an era of relative predictability, modern HR concepts are changing the way employees work and how they take the company to the next level. HR today has evolved into a more strategic function within the organisation – one where the high performance culture of the organisation is deeply ingrained into the corporate fabric. 

The future scope of work is all about change. And to meet this change effectively, CHROs need to don multiple hats. On the one hand, CHROs need to wear their IT hat and be tech-savvy to identify the right IT platforms and engage with talent on a regular basis. HR executives should stay updated with trending technologies and engage actively on social and digital channels to attract and retain talent. On the other hand, CHROs need to wear their marketing hat to pitch their organisation as an employer of choice and attract top talent from diverse generations including baby boomers and millennials. I believe as talent management professionals, CHROs are truly the transformation partners of the organisation – leveraging technology to effectively handle the needs of a multigenerational workforce.

Organisational change is the responsibility of the CHRO

The dawn of technology has pushed every individual and organisation through a phase of digital transformation – a phase that brings with it a wave of cultural transformation along with the need and acquisition of new talent, processes, and systems. I believe disruption in business is preceded by disruption in the way people engage, interact, and work – because business in essence is the people who run it. And it is the CHRO – the sole custodian of talent – who can drive such a change across the organisation.

At the organisation level, without employees there can’t be any business. That a company is as good or bad as the quality of its people is not an adage but a stark reality. Companies that invest in their employees, connect them meaningfully to the organisation, give them a sense of purpose and direction, and treat them with respect and dignity will flourish. Companies that don’t will struggle, no matter how superior their business model is. Business transformation can happen only when there is people transformation. Companies just can’t count employees as a factor of production or analyse them from a cost-benefit angle. Talent management has to move beyond utilising people driving a particular business outcome. It has to be more about igniting a spark where employees become highly competitive, are motivated, and keep innovating constantly – this is the only way forward for companies to move ahead in the coming days.

What is expected of the new age CHRO?

The role of the new age CHRO has evolved dramatically – highlighting the need to understand and predict the transformation waves hitting the knowledge economy and define the scope of HR accordingly. Change can be effective only when CHROs leverage the extended scope of HR either by driving it or riding it. They can drive the change by using data analytics to glean pertinent insights and subsequently devise strategy, facilitate talent engagement of a multigenerational workforce, and emphasise on collaborative working within the organisation. Future organisations will be flat, entailing less command and control and more networking. Organisations will discard conventional hierarchical structures, rigid control processes, and singular information flows. Instead the emphasis will be more on interaction, flexibility, and a collaborative workforce. CHROs can ride the change by effectively using technology to increase workforce productivity and identifying innovative processes to build learning and development systems that facilitate self-learning.

Having said this, organisational change isn’t a singular project. The person in charge of change – here the CHRO – must have the necessary internal and external knowledge and change management skills to make it succeed across the organisation.

  • All employees must be clear about their changing roles and responsibilities
  • The processes implemented to manage groups of employees must also be tweaked to support the change
  • CHROs should create a pull for talent to work for the organisation, do their best, and stay on

At the end of the day, CHROs will have to work in tandem with cross-functional teams to align employees with organisational goals and prepare them for any unforeseen disruptive challenges. It is the CHRO’s sharp peripheral vision that helps:

  • Foresee business opportunities and talent threats
  • Cultivate a compelling employer brand from all dimensions with a strong marketing orientation
  • Innovate talent management, engagement, and retention strategies
  • Implement processes that drive efficiencies and motivate the workforce to innovate
  • Foster learning programmes that prepare employees to navigate the sea of ever- changing technological trends
  • Build a culture where every senior leader overcomes the inherent tendency to defend status quo and embrace change wholeheartedly

Today’s corporate ecosystem is driven by change and this change has to happen from the inside out – by positively engaging and motivating employees so they project bigger and long-term aspirations within the organisation. The CHRO is a catalyst for organisational change – navigating the business in the right direction and supporting the CEO who is responsible to drive the business towards growth – by managing the most important function of handling human capital, the right way.