Causes of Success and Failure in the CHRO Role


The 2015 HR@Moore Survey of CHROs sought to identify what distinguishes those who fail from those who succeed in the CHRO role.  We asked two open-ended questions of the CHROs.  First, we asked them "From the CEO's perspective, what were the 2 to 3 areas in which the previous CHRO was weak?"  Second, we asked them what they thought were the 3 most important determinants of CHRO success.  The answers to these questions revealed both overlapping and distinguishing competencies.

Regarding the areas in which the previous CHRO was weak, failure to build trust with the board, CEO, and ELT emerged as the most frequently mentioned area, being identified by 26 of the respondents.  Lack of a Talent /Succession Process followed relatively closely as 22 CHROs listed that as a weakness.  The next two issues, lack of a strategic perspective (19) and a lack of business acumen (17), refer to the need for more basic business knowledge.  Relatedly, the failure to align HR and strategy (15) rounded out the top 5 areas of weakness for their predecessors.  This suggests the clear importance of aligning the HR function with business objectives.  Combining the three categories that directly reflect the CHROs role in the greater business (i.e., strategic perspectives, business acumen, and ability to align HR and strategy) shows that 51 CHROs reported that these were thought to be weaknesses in the previous CHRO.  In combination, these three categories would be, by far, the largest single category.

Not surprisingly, CHROs identified similar areas as the main determinants of success, albeit not necessarily with the same rank.  Again, establishing trust with the board/CEO/ELT topped the list with 33 CHROs mentioning it.  Business acumen (29) ranked second, while aligning HR with strategy (23), building relationships/collaboration (21), and strategic thinking (20) rounded out the top 5 determinants of CHRO success.

In other words, to be successful, CHROs must establish a set of trusting relationships with the board, the CEO, and the ELT.  In addition, the basic business acumen and ability to think strategically prove extremely important in the CHRO role.  Finally, CHROs must align HR practice/processes with the strategy of the business in order to succeed.

On the other hand, talent management was an area that, if not done well, can spell disaster for CHROs, but may not be as critical for distinguishing success.  While certainly important, the CHRO's ability to deliver talent may be considered more table stakes for the CHRO role than a way of distinguishing oneself as an effective business leader.