I recently attended the National Academy of Human Resources (NAHR) "New CHRO Academy" in New York City. The academy is designed for CHRO's who have been in the job 1-3 years and seeks to provide a primer on some of the main issues that the attendees have identified as issues they would like to learn about. The academy provides a number of 50-minute sessions with panels of 3 (CHROs and maybe one academic or other thought leader) to provide different perspectives and best practices.
Not surprisingly, many expressed a desire to know more about dealing with the Board of Directors (BOD) and in particular, executive compensation. In addition, a number noted they wanted to learn more about their role in coaching the CEO and other C-suite executives. The sessions provided some great ideas and great discussions, and the overall academy is a tremendous platform for generating a network with both peers (i.e., also new CHROs) and more seasoned executives.
However, my biggest takeaway from the academy was that all CHROs (but particularly new ones) need to have deep trusting relationships with other CHROs, and platforms for sharing their frustrations and hearing about how others have handled certain situations. I would suggest that every new CHRO seek to create this network through joining at least one of each of the three following categories of organizations that can help connect.
Academic Institutions: A number of great academic organizations tied to universities (and usually Masters programs in HR) help connect CHROs with one another, but also to the energy of young students and the knowledge-driven research of faculty members. For example, the Center for Advanced HR Studies at Cornell, the Center for Effective Organizations at University of Southern California, HAART at UCLA, HRPI at Boston University, and in a shameless self-promotion, the Riegel and Emory Center at the University of South Carolina (I'm joining the faculty there this fall!).
Professional Societies: These organizations tend to focus on specific areas of expertise, but also end up connecting senior HR professionals. Certainly the HR Policy Association comes to mind as a strong professional society focused on policy issues, but with a clear membership of CHROs. HRPS, while not focused specifically on CHROs, also caters to the most senior HR professionals in the organization.
Research Organizations: A number of research organizations also provide access to fellow CHROs while providing focused research on issues important to them. I4cp has a "board" of CHROs that are driving research around issued identified by that board. Similarly, the Conference Board provides research in areas important to CHROs.
The point is not to provide an exhaustive list of organizations nor to single out any one of these as "best" or to suggest that a new CHRO needs to be involved in all. However, my advice would be to pick one from each of the categories and devote two days a year to each one. It can provide useful knowledge, an opportunity to get away from the daily demands and think big thoughts, and a chance to leverage the experience of those who sit in similar roles.