It seems like every time you open Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Forbes, etc. you see article after article about attracting the best talent, authenticity in the workplace, and leadership styles that get results. In other words, articles about organizational talent: a rich field that, in the past, has been underinvested in due to a lack of understanding.
This new emphasis is driven by the changing needs of modern businesses. As more and more jobs require knowledge-based skillsets and the ability to perform complex and creative tasks, corporations are realizing the importance of developing and retaining a vibrant and engaged workforce. In addition, in the last few years there have been groundbreaking improvements in our ability to quantify the business impact of organizational talent improvements.
Gallup’s well-known 2012 study on the relationship between engagement and organizational performance showed, across every performance outcome they studied, employees who felt engaged and valued by their companies performed at a higher level than those who don’t. It may seem intuitive at this point, but without the ability to quantify the importance of “soft” talent characteristics to your bottom line, all data was simply anecdotal and easy to dismiss or refute. As measurement improves companies are better understanding how to systematically improve the performance and workplace well-being of their employees, as well as the significant business impact that follows from those efforts.
CHROs and the HR function, with their emphasis on the engagement, productivity, and softer, less data-driven elements including development and corporate culture, are perfectly situated to elevate the impact of organizational talent. The shift in corporate emphasis is also attracting better funding, greater support, and higher quality talent to HR. This is evidenced by the fact that more CHRO’s are reporting directly to the CEO rather than through another function such as finance. We’re even starting to hear arguments that the new corporate landscape makes CHROs well-suited to be CEO candidates. (See this recent study by Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and Ellie Filler, Managing Partner at Korn/Ferry).
Of course, increased visibility creates a greater need for the CHRO to be innovative and forward-thinking. Technology will continue to be instrumental in providing the new CHRO with tools to maximize the productivity and workplace well-being of their employees. My own CEO is developing a new platform, Yoi, that is dedicated to streamlining the onboarding process to help new hires become productive, engaged, and interpersonally connected more quickly.
With all the advances made in the last few years, there’s still tremendous room to expand and transform. The new CHROs, with their unique combination of analytic and soft skills, as well as a passion for people and their growth, will be at the fore.