People + Strategy Journal

Summer 2021

Message from the President

Research findings suggest CEOs and CHROs agree more than disagree on talent strategy overall, but there is room for improvement and a new urgency.

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.

Closing the CEO-CHRO Gap 

There’s plenty of excitement in the air as workers return to their onsite workplaces after almost 18 months, renewing bonds with co-workers and enjoying in-person collaboration. But under the surface, something else is going on. 

The isolation of working from home and the stress of working longer hours while juggling families and schooling have left workers feeling undervalued and burned out. In addition to the resurgence of the skills shortage we expect this year, we will see a “turnover tsunami.” More than half of employees in North America say they plan to look for a new job in 2021, according to the Workforce Institute.

Now more than ever, CEOs and CHROs must be in lock step when it comes to talent strategies. But as our new research found, there is a gap in priorities and perspectives between the two.

In our new report, The CEO-CHRO Partnership, SHRM and the Chief Executive Group surveyed 243 CEOs and 406 CHROs and found CEOs’ two biggest business priorities for 2021 were talent availability and recruiting (56 percent) and retention and upskilling (58.4 percent). 

CHROs agreed on the retention and upskilling (60.3 percent), but only 29 percent said they’d like to see more time devoted to talent availability and recruiting. The research also found disparities in how CEOs and CHROs prioritize inclusion, equity and diversity; wages and compensation practices; organizational reinvention and innovation; and leadership transition. 

Why the disconnect? CEOs and CHROs working in close strategic partnership is still emergent, although a growing number of CEOs and boards are handing more responsibility to CHROs and expecting them to provide insight and counsel in key areas such as talent, leadership development and workforce capabilities.

The research findings suggest CEOs and CHROs agree more than disagree on talent strategy overall. But there is room for improvement in the relationship—and urgency. We have reached a pivotal moment for HR executives as companies begin to reset for a post-pandemic future. It’s up to these top leaders to design our workforces for the coming years, and that means building even closer strategic relationships with CEOs. 

The new SHRM Executive Network, launched in May, is designed to help CHROs and HR executives deliver greater innovation and best practices from the top level of the enterprise. This private, global collective of executives in medium and large enterprises are taking advantage of exclusive resources and timely research, curated content on human capital trends, and invitation-only networking opportunities.

I’m especially excited about the Executive Network’s newly formed Executive Council, which met for the first time in May. We convened CHROs from Microsoft, Mastercard, Chipotle and other leading companies to explore workplace issues and share insights on business strategies. Their deliberations will certainly shape the world of work as we know it and give members of the Executive Network a competitive edge. 

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP
CEO and President of SHRM