Heading up the HR Department

by | Mar 20

11 min read

The role of a chief human resources officer (CHRO) involves overseeing all of a company’s staff management and labour-relations practices. According to technological research and consulting firm Gartner, just a few of the trends and priorities you may find yourself focusing on in the time ahead, include: scarce, yet expensive talent, global supply constraints, and economic pressure (from outside of an organisation); and ways to enhance the employee experience, the importance of change management, and working on leader and manager efficacy (from inside of an organisation).

Ways to break through the glass ceiling

Start your journey in HR by completing a bachelor’s degree in social science or business administration. Thereafter, seek out an internship within the HR department of a big, or busy, organisation. You’ll want to learn a great deal and have a hand in most of the intricate HR-related tasks going on – which is best accomplished when a department is slightly short staffed. Next, it’s time to find an entry-level HR position on the basis of your studies and experience, and to set about working your way up the career ladder – from a junior to a senior leadership position.

At this point, it’s a good idea to up skill with a few relevant certifications or short courses. Examples include: Executive and Management Coaching, Human Resource Management, Professional Communication and Office Management, Strategic Human Resource Management, and/or Training and Development Management. Further, taking on an MBA with an HR focus will stand you in excellent stead when it comes to qualifying for the top rung – CHRO job – within a vibrant corporate.


Your day-to-day duties

A CHRO has a massive administrative responsibility in any given company. This individual’s duties range across the likes of development training programmes, recruiting new staff members, interviewing potential applicants, making sure government regulations are known and enforced throughout a business, bringing the entire staff contingent together wherever possible at team-building functions, and supervising the junior HR team members while also mentoring their more senior team managers. If you make yourself available to your team as a much-valued resource and a kindly ear, they will learn on the job (as you once did) and be able to apply an increasing level of skill, expertise and experience to the tasks at hand.


Reasons to seek advice as you climb

It goes without saying that the management of an HR department is critical to the success of any given company. Skillful handling of the systems and infrastructure that keep staff thriving and their interactions smooth has a decided impact on a company’s financial impetus. Once you’ve risen up to assume the CHRO role, you’ll be clear on the value of your talent base and the importance of developing, motivating and retaining key staff members to achieve your firm’s strategic business goals. But over and above the solid base you will have developed from your studies and experience, you may also face various challenges as you set about working as a strategic partner to your chief executive officer.

At this point, it can help to seek new insights and fresh knowledge to keep the well-being and productivity of your staff contingent high. Short courses and executive coaching are best in this regard – with a global workplace survey from the Adecco Group revealing that 74 percent of employees would like their management team to show them more empathy and support; and as many as 54 percent of directors feeling that they will be unable to act in accordance with such expectations unless they seek help via:

1) the theoretical knowledge a course may offer them;
2) the practical skills they may learn in a series of executive coaching sessions.

Examples of what a CHRO can gain from coaching

If you’ve gone into the HR game thinking you know everything about people, and how to get the most out of them, think again. There is always something to learn: about yourself; and your management of people. If you think of your job as a sport, and yourself as one of the key players on the field, where should you get your support and advice? From a coach, of course!

Now that we’ve emerged from the challenges of the pandemic, when you were likely to only have been keeping everything going to the best of your ability, it’s time to consider your own career goals and aspirations once again – especially if you are gearing up towards taking on a higher-level HR position (CHRO, here we come!), but need to tackle obstacles related to your mindset.

So here’s what an executive or life coach will be able to bring to the mix:
• a smooth transition from one company, or position, to another;
• help with rekindling the lost passion for what you do;
• assistance in emerging from any rut that you may have fallen into;
• tools and mechanisms to help you motivate your immediate team;
• ways to drum up the empathy needed to deal with difficult situations and people;
• revealing methods to pick up on burnout, and how to treat it or prevent it from happening in the first place (both in yourself, and colleagues/staff members);
• ability to reflect deeply and gain renewed awareness of yourself.

HR Trends 2023

Employees have extremely high expectations – is the word from the HR leaders of today. To assist companies with this challenge, two such individuals, Erik van Vulphen, founder of AIHR and Dieter Veldsman, the company’s HR and organisational development (OD) leader, have released an HR Trends report.

Their fervent belief is that HR managers are exhausted and need the opportunity to recharge their batteries, and to receive the proper tools to do their jobs well. “But this is not HR’s responsibility alone,” they say in an interview on CHRO.co.za. “It’s a business problem that must be prioritised. If businesses don’t empower HR to function effectively and make better strategic decisions, organisations will face greater internal pressures from the challenges of the new world of work. HR holds the key to unlocking the change, but enabling them is a business-wide responsibility.” Let’s hope all the CEOs, CFOs and COOs are sitting up and taking notice.

Just a few of the trends that these astute HR leaders highlight here and in their report, include:

• prioritising employee wellness and building resilience to avoid burnout (as mnentioned above) – across the organisation but in the HR department, too;
• offering ongoing and plentiful opportunities to learn, close gaps, and upskill – to remain ahead of any marketplace competition and keep staff retention levels high;
• putting future-proof policies in place that allow remote and hybrid conditions to actually work for employees;
• ensuring the CHRO can take his or her rightful place in the C-suite’s inner circle;
• facilitating the creation of a “purpose-driven” organisation, where the work being accomplished has personal meaning for its teams and directors, over and above the company’s ultimate success.

Upskill at the best-in-class international conferences

 Because the world of work has changed so much since the pandemic, most forward-gearing CHROs will be on the hunt for a conference to attend at which they can broaden their network, and keep their knowledge as current as possible.

One such option is the virtually held CHRO Summit: the Path Forward, which is scheduled this year for 26 April. This online event aims to answer questions, such as the below, for CHROs the world over and based within any given business sector:

• Where will we be working in the time to come?
• How will employees connect with each other?
• How should managers lead their teams?
• What will real inclusion look like?
• What will it take to recruit, engage, and retain the talent that demands truly meaningful work?
• How are we listening to our employees, and showing that we acknowledge their needs and their challenges?
• What are we doing with the knowledge we have gained?

Discussion topics promise to cover everything from: the continuing reinvention of work; growing and empowering talent; why inclusion is imperative, and how the best are fostering it; addressing the crisis of emotional well-being; data analytics and HR transformation; and the evolution of the CHRO as a business strategist – what, in fact, lies ahead for this specialized profession. More details are available at: https://www.conference-board.org/events/chrosummit

Ten books for your nightstand

  • Armstrong, S. & Mitchell, B. (2019). The Essential HR Handbook – A Quick And Handy Resource For Any Manager Or HR Professional (US: Welser)
  • Bock, L. (2015). Work Rules! Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live And Lead (US: Twelve)
    • Ozenc, K. & Hagan, M. (2019). Rituals for Work: 50 Ways To Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, And A Culture That Can Adapt To Change (US: Wiley)
    • Perez, P. (2019). The Drama-Free Workplace: How You Can Prevent Unconscious Bias, Sexual Harassment, Ethics Lapses, and Inspire a Healthy Culture (US: Wiley)
  • Keswin, E. (2018). Bring Your Human To Work: 10 Surefire Ways To Design A Workplace That Is Good For People, Great For Business, And Just Might Change The World
    (US: McGraw Hill)
    • Brown, S. (2017). HR On Purpose: Developing Deliberate People Passion (US:
    Society For Human Resource Management)
    • Adams, L. (2017). HR Disrupted – It’s Time For Something Different (UK: Practical Inspiration Publishing)
    • Scott, K. (2017). Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (US: St Martin’s Press)
    • Carnegie, D. (2023). How To Win friends and Influence People (US: Zinc Read)
    • Goleman, D. (2015) On Emotional Intelligence (US: Harvard Business Review Press)


    Fast fact 1: A salary comparison
    The average salary for a CHRO is R139 207 per month, or R1 670 484 per annum in South Africa. Source: https://grabjobs.co/southafrica/salary-guide/chief-human-resources-officer-chro#:~:text=The%20average%20Chief%20Human%20Resources,to%20R192%2C105%2C660%20per%20year.
    In the US, however, the average CHRO salary is US$331 520 [R6 288 722] per annum as of 27 February 2023 – with the salary range varying greatly according to education, certifications, additional skills and the number of years an individual has dedicated to the profession. Source: https://www.salary.com/research/salary/alternate/chro-salary

    Fast fact 2: 12 Entertaining HR Stats
    Research from GoRemotely reveals:
    • 60 percent of job seekers quit an application halfway through;
    • 83 percent decide against a position, and the company involved, after a negative interviewing experience;
    • 87 percent change their mind in a positive sense towards a company and the position they are applying for, after a rewarding job interview;

  • 75 percent of your peers in the HR niche make use of recruiting software to speed up and increase the efficiency of the onboarding process;
    • 70 percent of companies make use of software to analyse staff data, as well as to keep it safe and secure;
    • 75 percent use the cloud for at least one HR process;
    • engaged employees achieve 21 percent better profitability for a company than their demotivated colleagues;
    • empathy from leaders and managers is key to the positive morale and retention of staff in a company, according to 96 percent of employees;
    • more than half of people – in fact, up to 61 percent – suffer from burn out during the course of their careers;
    • 92 percent of managers think they are doing a stirling job, while only 67 percent of workers agree;
    • 54 percent of companies don’t have rules surrounding dating a colleague or office romances;
    • 93 percent of workers prioritise their professional growth over any other attribute that a company can offer them.
    Source: https://goremotely.net/blog/hr-statistics/

    Fast fact 3: Top CHROs 2022
    According to N2Growth, a company that places executives at the world’s top companies and equips them to succeed, these 10 people deserve the accolade of top CHROs to follow in the media – and on social media:





Carol Surface


Healthcare/Life Sciences

Beth Whited

Union Pacific


Lisa Chang

The Coca-Cola Company


Stacy Green

Sony Pictures Entertainment


Lynne Oldham



Mona Malone

BMO Financial Group


Debra Thompson


Academic/Higher ED/Ed Tech

Frank Lopez

Ryder system Inc


Katarina Berg



Jeffrey Stoicheff

Penske Logistics


Source: https://www.n2growth.com/en_gb/top-chro-list-the-people-leaders-to-watch/

Read more links:







Hot Jobs at
Executive Placements