Today’s HR teams are organised to deliver a world-class service that has direct impact on business results. CHROs and HR leaders around the globe are creating onboarding processes with a strong focus on the Employee Value Proposition and deploying enabling technologies that streamline processes to make work easier and faster for all employees. And if that wasn’t enough, HR leaders are using employee analytics for workforce planning and are working with business leaders to create a culture of innovation where employees feel empowered and inspired.

Finding a single person who can lead such dramatic organisational change is almost as hard as achieving it. According to Dave Ulrich, “Great CHROs are very highly paid because they’re very hard to find.” And he’s right, according to the Harvard Business Review Article, “Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs”, CHROs often earn more than their counterparts in Finance, Marketing and even Sales.

With this in mind, several team members at ChapmanCG got together recently to brainstorm some of the recent trends and critical demands that we’re finding in our recent HR searches across the globe. We analysed some of the traits required by the more innovative, agile and successful businesses that we partner with. It was a highly complex task given we operate across all industries and in all key global locations, not to mention many businesses are looking for a CHRO who can pioneer as well as lead from experience across so many specialities and in areas we are still trying to define, such as HR technologies and how best to utilise employee analytics.

Based on our brainstorming, we noticed that five key behaviours were marked as “essential” to our clients when hiring a CHRO or HR leader:

1. Someone who can operate commercially

If HR can’t help the business meet its objectives by levering its talent through the entire employee life cycle, then the fear is that the future of HR could be one of segmentation and absorption into other departments. Today’s HR leaders must be commercial thought leaders, much like CFOs and CMOs of the past. It’s not about efficiency within the HR silo, but across the entire organisation. Much like the product marketing team is involved right from the inception of development, so too must HR exist alongside of and become part of the business.

Our clients look for HR leaders who:

  • Know the business and can speak the language.
  • Are strategic and understand the financials as well as the products and services.
  • Drive innovation and challenge status quo. They lead change by becoming change agents and participate in brainstorming sessions about the changes that affect the organisation.

2. Someone who can innovate on people best practices

We noticed that there seemed to be an increasing focus across the majority of businesses over recent years to innovate on the best people practices by analysing what works, but also (and perhaps more importantly) making bold attempts to disrupt the market in terms of talent attraction, retention and development strategies. Some of the well-known examples are the elimination of performance ratings and reviews. While it’s too soon to determine the lasting implications of this, it has made organisations take a hard look at how they conduct their performance reviews and seek new ways to make it better—not just from an administration perspective, but also from an employee engagement one.

Interestingly, we discussed how some of our clients from larger multinationals were providing their short-listed job applicants with pre-paid credit cards to help with travel or other expenses to eliminate the need for prospective employees to go through the often-arduous process of claiming expenses when they are not part of an organisation.

3. Someone who can build an employer brand

Many of our clients are focused on building an employer brand that gets to the root at what their organisation is all about. How an organisation structures itself and how employees go about their work is just as important as the products and services it provides. They have said that knowing how to promote what their organisation does well, authentically and honestly, is essential. And they are looking for HR leaders who have embraced social media as a tool to help promote their organisations externally as well as internally. They know their industry, their product and service competitors as well as their talent competitors.

4. Someone who is data-driven and can manage a P&L

Whilst HR has traditionally been tasked with helping manage the intangible elements of what makes people in organisations great, we have experienced an increasing need from our clients for HR teams who can support talent development with data or evidence. Therefore, we suspect that this “data-driven” need combined with the increasing level of specialist technology that is now available, the need for HR teams and their leaders to be able to dive deep and manage the budgets for potential profit-making centres, as opposed to simply managing cost, is only going to increase.

5. Someone who motivates and inspires

It may seem like organisations have forgotten about some of the intangibles or the characteristics that have always made a good HR leader good: their ability to motivate and inspire. While there definitely are new skillsets that business leaders require from their HR heads, the truth is that the ability to help create and translate the company’s vision into a workplace that is motivated and inspired still remains in the top five.

Many of our clients have told us that through effective communication and building trust-based partnerships with other C-suite leaders (both internally and externally) their HR leaders have created an environment where leaders lead through inspiration and have developed the ability to not only manage upwards and downwards, but sideways and at multiple angles too.

It was interesting to sit down with my peers from around the globe and have brainstorming sessions about the trends we were experiencing in the HR profession. More and more, organisations today are seeking HR leaders who are multifaceted, and we surmise that the days of a purist HR leader are over. Today’s CHROs and HR leaders must be many things to many different people, and one of those things is a business leader.