March 9, 2023
March 9, 2023
By Rob Andrews with italicized content from Ellyn Shook and Yusuf Tayob’s report The CHRO as a growth executive published on January 17, 2023 on Accenture’s website, https://www.accenture.com/
Putting the forces of change to work
Having the right profile and conditions activates a High-Res CHROs’ ability to accelerate change and drive growth. Our survey analysis and in-depth interviews with CEOs and CHROs globally illustrate three key things they do differently.
1. Access and create talent in innovative ways
High-Res CHROs use data-led, AI-powered insights to understand which capabilities their organizations need most—and where to find and attract the people that have them. To achieve this, they:
CHRO IN ACTION: The “gray areas” where functions intersect and value hides
Francine Katsoudas, Chief People, Policy and Purpose Officer at Cisco, thinks of her role as “being focused on anticipating market transitions and understanding the business strategy and how it links with our people strategy to accelerate growth for the company.”
It’s a relatively new approach, but it reflects the Cisco C-suite’s evolving understanding of how people, technology and data must combine to drive productivity. As Katsoudas explains: “Historically, you would have business discussions and talk tech and data—and then you would talk separately about people. Now we’re understanding that success means braiding these discussions together.”
This “braiding” manifests itself in relationships and new ways of working within the executive team. To illustrate, Katsoudas points to her increasingly collaborative partnership with Chief Information Officer Fletcher Previn, which shines a new light for both on how technology can elevate people to drive greater productivity in their company. Given Cisco’s business, and the networked solutions the company develops, their learnings can also inform the company’s client offerings.
Katsoudas notes that Cisco’s work to unlock employee potential and create better experiences— from recruiting to workforce planning, to skill development and ways of engaging—is dependent on leaders. “Elevating leadership expectations and focusing on longer term outcomes is critical,” she says. “Data and insights from our HCM crossenterprise platform reinforce the efficacy of this approach and can help create efficiencies that can be reinvested to further improve people’s ability to collaborate and deliver value.”
As a result, Cisco is fast-tracking change for its people, its business and its communities.
2. Connect new dimensions of data, technology and people
High-Res CHROs are nearly 2x more likely to effectively connect data, technology and people than their peers. Leveraging this growth combination is the primary accelerator for improved financial and non-financial outcomes. To achieve this, these CHROs:
CHRO IN ACTION: Putting data to work
Numbers have always been a factor in human resources, but today’s CHROs have access to more, better and deeper data than ever before. And as access to it has changed, so has its impact.
“Data and insights are paramount for our jobs,” says Donna Morris, Chief People Officer at Walmart. “Years ago, we didn’t have it as real-time, or as accessible as it is today … If I had to go back 15 years, I’d say it took a lot longer to get predictive insights. And often it was predictive in outcomes, not actually insight. So, if an outcome happened, we assumed it would happen again. It wasn’t as if we could apply logic to data to give us different formulated outcomes and insight.”
Now, CHROs are experimenting with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technological tools that can uncover hidden truths in the numbers—and all faster than ever.
Morris’ team put this into play with its 2022 Associate Engagement Survey. By using internal technology to drive the survey in real-time, they were able to draw responses from nearly a million employees in just five days. They then used AI and machine learning capabilities to segment the data and distill qualitative comments into actionable categories and insights. As a result, they could act on the survey results right away, instead of the typical three to five weeks it would normally take to do so. “And, when it comes to DEI and representation,” Morris says, “we are now able to report every six months—armed with realtime data that enables us to be transparent about where we’re at and to be even more accountable to drive progress and change.”
Over the years, Morris says the CHRO role has pivoted from a focus on talent and retention to a role focused on furthering the business through organizational growth and people.
3. Lead reinvention beyond the HR function
While credibility starts with functional excellence, High-Res CHROs’ impact and influence extends across the entire enterprise and beyond the organization to truly drive transformation. That means they:
CHRO IN ACTION: Resilience is everything
If there’s one word to describe the past few years, it’s uncertainty. Whether it’s the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising inflation, the energy crisis or the cryptocurrency crash, businesses have had to adapt quickly to change. Some organizations have even thrived since they have the right mix of people and technology to adapt to changing conditions.
Kerry Dryburgh, Chief People Officer at bp calls this the platform of opportunity. “It’s about leading transformation internally and then looking beyond, considering the challenges externally, to make a difference in the world” she says. “It’s about purpose and how we respond to societal expectations. And then it’s about engagement and the commerciality.”
There are examples of this everywhere in the organization. On a high level, all of bp’s HR tools and data are in the cloud, all to ensure that employees have the best possible experience. Moving forward, Dryburgh expects to be able to use analytics and insights for a real-time look at employee sentiment—and react quickly, if necessary. For instance, Dryburgh’s team found that bp employees who work for great team leaders are 15 points more engaged than those who see their team leader less often and receive less feedback. Moving forward, bp is creating an agenda focused on driving engagement and performance. “So, it’s having that discussion as opposed to it being about what we intuitively think we need to do…[and] underpinning the ‘why’ in a much more robust way.”
Dryburgh has also found bp is well positioned to support the greater good, beyond what’s traditionally expected of a CHRO or HR in general. She worked with external partners, including NGOs, to create a system of support for refugees—not just connecting them with jobs, but linking all the other aspects as well, such as determining if someone needs language training or financial support to cover the costs of requalification. It’s a complete rethinking of the talent strategy in a time of upheaval that not only helps the business in a time of crisis, but also the people most affected by that crisis.
Ultimately, Dryburgh sees resilience—and leveraging that platform of opportunity—in three facets. The first is transformation and using HR tech and talent to help the company evolve and grow to meet its goals in a constantly changing world. (To this end, bp is aided by Accenture’s transformation GPS tool to help them understand their progress on the journey.) The second is embedding the importance of transformation and talent throughout the C-suite and with the board and opening the door to collaboration. And the third is leaving a legacy, so that the company and the communities it serves are all better off than when she arrived at bp.
Her advice? “Think bigger than the seat that you sit in.”
Are you ready to join the 5%? The way forward
Every C-suite leader should be talking about how to tap into and empower the CHRO as a growth executive. It starts by holding the mirror up, individually and collectively, because unlocking growth through data, tech and people is only achieved together. Consider these four questions:
I hope this article has been helpful. Every bit of this research aligns perfectly with our view of building powerful cultures, which we believe are the only form of sustainable competitive advantage. Give us a call, and let’s talk about how we can help you find your new CHRO, or help strengthen and support the one you have.
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