Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz on the Role of Modern CHROs

In our conversation with Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz, Senior Fellow and Advisory Board Member at Crenshaw Associates and Managing Principal of Boswell Group, Dr. Sulkowicz speaks on the evolving and increasing importance of the CHRO role.

“The CHRO function has always been important but I think that never more than during the past few years has it been underscored what a critical partner the CHRO is to the CEO. It’s analogous in some ways to what has long been seen as a critical partnership between the CEO and CFO.” CEO’s are increasingly elevating the role of their CHRO to be more integral in the corporate direction. The widening purview of the role is allowing talented HR executives, and non-traditional HR executives, to create value through new people and organizational strategies. CHRO’s are uniquely qualified to offer deep insights into every aspect of the organization as they have a large influence on every companies most valuable resource, it’s people.

“The best, the most sophisticated CHROs that I have the privilege of working with are the primary internal advisor on people and culture, organizational dynamics, and succession planning. In an organization, what could be more important really than getting the people part right? If you don’t get that right, the rest of it is a lot harder.”

In the wake of recent economic and societal shifting events, CHRO’s in charge of critical people and talent initiatives had an important and immediate opportunity to put their employees individual physical, mental, and emotional resilience at the forefront of their priorities. A large part of this involved reforming their organization’s culture. Reforming culture requires a sightline across the business, using data and feedback on the experiences of leaders and their teams. CHRO’s are using this insight to define the values and expectations of the company culture, innovate how these messages are communicated to the organization, and implement strategies for wide adoption.

HR leaders also have the duty to keep an eye on the future through recruiting, retaining and developing top talent, as well as predicting how these leaders will perform in new roles and under evolving circumstances. Crenshaw’s recent work with CHRO’s has focused on assessing sitting executives for next-level readiness and fit, offering data and insights to make these types of developmental and succession decisions.

CEOs are leaning on their CHROs more and more, using their insights on the people driving the business, for value creation and business transformation. This burgeoning partnership is both redefining the CHRO role and becoming a competitive advantage for organizations who capitalize on this trend. “Ultimately, there are all sorts of technical aspects to the CHRO role, but at the most sophisticated level, the best CHROs really serve in that confidant function with the CEO.”