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Why a CHRO Will Be the Next Must-Have Role in the Boardroom

Source | LinkedIn : By Coco Brown

Traditionally, the makeup of corporate boards has followed a clear set of parameters: a CIO for technology strategy, a CFO for financial strategy, a CEO to teach your own chief executive how to move the company forward. Today, many of the challenges companies face make a compelling case for adding another must-have role to the board – a chief human resources officer (CHRO), who can provide guidance around talent acquisition and culture, succession planning, compensation, board structure and evaluation, and more.

Recent news has been full of stories about high-performing companies with cultures that enabled deceitful practices or toxic workplaces. Some of the CHRO areas of expertise, once considered “the soft stuff,” have become “the strategic stuff.” And with the very nature of work changing amid automation, visionary leaders see multiple reasons to attract top CHROs to their boards.

Increasingly, corporations are realizing they must incorporate the CHRO function on their boards. Below are four reasons why:

Succession planning

The primary job of any board of directors is to make sure the right leadership team is in place to drive the business, and the CEO is at the heart of that goal. A strong leadership bench is one with a succession plan in place, but this is a delicate topic. There are disclosure issues around such material information, of course, and some CEOs need encouragement to leave when the time is right – whether the change is contentious or not. Similarly, boards are often nervous about the timing of such shifts, particularly when they perceive a lack of a strong successor.

Managing through these issues doesn’t come naturally to many board members, but it does for experienced CHROs. Such executives can offer insights on planned transitions and how to navigate the process, from identifying internal candidates to talking about development plans to introducing these topics to chief executives. These processes are becoming more formal and documented, thanks to shareholder activism and regulatory requirements.

Jan Becker, an Athena Alliance member who was most recently the head of people and facilities at Autodesk, brought on a couple of new CEOs during her 17 years at the company, and she worked with the board on succession planning. She’s overseen transitions driven by internal planning and those driven by activist shareholders, and notes that while the two scenarios are different, they have one thing in common.

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