CHRO: What Does A Chief Human Resources Officer Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Having a chief human resources officer (CHRO) to partner with the rest of the C-suite can support long-term success. Explore more about the CHRO role, how to become one, salary expectations, and more.

[Featured Image] A chief human resources officer (CHRO) is working on a new HR strategy.

Within human resources (HR), the chief human resources officer (CHRO) develops and executes HR strategy for an organization’s talent management, succession planning, and more. . Having a leader focused on people can drive employee retention and benefit a business's bottom line. This article explores the role of the CHRO, its advantages for business, and how to become a CHRO.

What is a chief human resources officer?

The CHRO is a newer addition to the C-suite leadership as businesses have come to recognize the importance of having a strategy for people management.

The CHRO executes HR strategies with overall business objectives in mind such as:

Importance of a CHRO for a business 

The CHRO is a strategic leader who leads managers and is indirectly responsible for all employees. This individual communicates HR implications to the executive team, shareholders, and the board of directors.

When businesses have a CHRO they gain someone who typically:

  • Creates succession plans for the executive management team

  • Develops procedures and strategies to achieve business operation objectives

  • Handles grievances, complaints, and disciplinary issues

  • Implements cost-effective and competitive recruiting and retention strategies

  • Knows employment-related laws and regulations

  • Manages company culture

  • Oversees talent acquisition, training, benefits, and career and leadership development

  • Supports the company mission and strategic vision via HR efforts

Job outlook and average salary 

The job outlook for CHROs is strong at a 5 percent average growth between 2022 and 2032 [1]. According to Glassdoor, the estimated total pay for a CHRO in the US is $290,330 per year [2]. This figure includes an average base salary of $168,064 and $122,266 in additional pay. Additional pay may represent profit-sharing, commissions, or bonuses.

Common responsibilities of a chief human resources officer 

A CHRO can work in any number of business settings and either in private or public companies. You could also work with an independent HR provider. Larger health care, government, financial, and educational enterprises are more likely to have CHRO roles.

As a CHRO, expect to perform these tasks:

  • Plan and implement change.

  • Set policy for hiring, mentoring, developing, rewarding, and promoting talent. 

  • Manage compliance, performance, benefits, and payroll.

  • Be accountable for employee well-being, development, and professional success.

  • Foster organization-wide communications. 

  • Help value short-term costs versus long-term value of investing in human resources.

  • Foster diversity and equity in the workplace. 

Key skills CHROs need 

As a leader in the human resources area, the CHRO needs to have a number of technical and workplace skills. These abilities can include a range of the following.

Technical skills 

To be a CHRO, you’ll need to demonstrate a range of technical skills. These could include proficiency in:

  • Accounting and finance

  • Business data and analytics

  • Employment law

  • Ethical business practices

  • Global and cultural awareness

  • Leadership and management

  • Project management 

  • Technology

Workplace skills

A CHRO should also excel in: 

  • Analysis

  • Attention to detail

  • Communication (verbal and written) 

  • Conflict resolution

  • Organization

  • Problem-solving

Read more: Management Concepts Every Aspiring Manager Should Know 

How to become a CHRO

There are many paths to becoming a chief human resources officer that don’t require an HR background. However, this article will focus on the traditional route to becoming a CHRO.

Earn a bachelor’s degree. 

A CHRO’s career path typically begins with a bachelor’s degree and will later require extensive education. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science or Arts in human resources or a related field can help you land in the CHRO seat.

Read more: Master of Business Administration (MBA) Guide

Gain professional work experience. 

Professional work experience is required to pursue a career as a CHRO. Any background in recruiting, managing, assessing, and coaching people can help you become a candidate for the role.

The typical progression for jobs in human resources follows:

  • HR assistant: An entry-level position helps with onboarding new employees and informing existing employees about HR policies and benefits

  • HR specialist: Role with a specific area of responsibility, such as benefits or employee engagement

  • HR manager: A management role oversees programs and policies with a more holistic view of the organization’s objectives

  • HR director: A higher-level from a manager has a more strategic role while overseeing the others on the HR team

Of course, working your way up within human resources isn’t the only way to gain relevant experience. Taking on leadership roles and volunteering for people-related projects can also help you gain the necessary skills in people management.

Cultivate a growth mindset and relevant skills. 

While CHRO is a growing opportunity, many organizations still don’t have an HR leader at the C-suite level. To be hired as a CHRO, you’ll need to demonstrate understanding outside of training and benefits like leadership, business operations and strategy. Taking coursework in financial operations or business analysis, can help enhance your resume and show understanding in the levers that make a business successful. 

As a CHRO it’s important to cultivate a growth mindset and be able to motivate others.  Articulating the company vision and inspiring people to accept change is key to being a successful CHRO. Some relevant skills to have include:

  • Strategic decision-making skills 

  • Data literacy 

  • Ability to access employees 

  • Ability to identify talent gaps or skills 

At the same time, show your willingness to try new things and learn from your failures. A CHRO will ask employees to do the same. 

Consider certifications. 

Consider getting certified by industry groups. The Society for Human Resource Management offers SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP certifications. The certified professional (SHRM-CP) tests basic knowledge of HR practices and principles. More experienced HR employees can seek senior certified professional (SHRM-SCP) standing. This certification exam is more strategically oriented and focuses on skills related such as:

  • Developing HR policies and procedures

  • Overseeing the execution of integrated HR operations

  • Directing an entire HR enterprise

  • Leading the alignment of HR strategies to organizational goals 

You might also look into credentials from the Human Resource Certification Institute, including:

  • Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR), which is for entry-level HR employees

  • Professional in Human Resources—International (PHRi), which is for established HR practitioners working outside of the United States

  • Senior Professional in Human Resources, which takes a more holistic approach to HR skills at the strategic, leadership level 

Next steps

You can find many ways to expand your skills and develop your talent for human resources. On Coursera, consider taking Human Resource Management: HR for People Managers or Leading: Human Resource Management and Leadership. You can also develop your facility in a particular area by taking a course such as Human Resources Analytics orHiring Practices. These courses can help provide you with leadership skills to advance in your career. 

Article sources

1

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Human Resources Managers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm." Accessed June 14, 2024.

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