The Expanding Role of the Chief HR Officer


Over the past 18 years I've gotten to know a number of Chief HR Officers and seen them grow in their roles. I remember watching Ken Carrig move from the VPHR to EVPHR, to taking on additional responsibilities until he was given the title of Chief Administrative Officer at Sysco Corporation. By then he had a number of areas, including legal, reporting to him. In my other conversations, I see CHROs taking on additional responsibilities such as facilities, corporate aircraft, communications, etc. as their tenure increases.

In the 2011 Cornell/CAHRS Survey of Chief HR Officers, I asked CHROs to identify the other areas of the business for which they had responsibility. Almost half (49.1%) reported having responsibility for Internal Communications, by far the most frequently noted area now reporting to the CHRO. Given that HR is often referred to as the "conscience" of the organization, it is probably not surprising that 31% of CHROs have responsibility for Corporate Philanthropy (i.e., the charitable foundations), 28.4% for the firm's Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, and 24.3% for Community Affairs. Rounding out the other areas where more than 20% of CHROs reported responsibility were Facilities (26%) and Security/Safety (23.1%).

It is difficult to discern whether, as CEOs and other business leaders become more trusting of a particular CHRO, that CHRO gains more responsibilities, or if this is a trend to expand the CHRO role overall regardless of who is sitting in the seat. Either way, the data suggests that CHROs have to be competent in more than just HR in today's top seat because they may be managing organizations outside their area of expertise.

Other Areas Reporting to CHROs in the 2011 Cornell/CAHRS Survey of Chief HR Officers (US CHROs only)

Internal Communications49.1
Corporate Social Responsibility28.4
Community Affairs24.3
Administrative Services18.3
External Communications15.4
Real Estate10.1
Government Affairs7.7
Procurement/Supply Chain2.4