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When the CHRO became the HERO

Most people choose HR as a career wanted to help people achieve their “Full potential” through the HR function.

Soon, the reality hits. Few organizations have a strategic view of HR as a Critical business function that recruits and nurtures the most precious resource for the organization – their people. In most organizations HR is bogged down in transactional and administrative tasks (Payroll, benefits, leave management etc.). The interaction with employees is limited to the time of recruitment, the annual performance reviews, and the occasional mandatory training. 

In many organizations the HR function is seen as the ‘Implementer” of decisions made in the C Suite, rather than being part of the team, making those decisions. Worse, while the CEO may think that HR’s knowledge of the business is limited, the employees that HR wishes to serve may view them with suspicion as the henchmen of the CEO, executing unpleasant tasks at their behest.

But there is a new model for the role of CHRO is emerging – One of our customers, a fast growing tech company saw a growing gap between their strategy and execution. They saw serious challenges in getting the entire organization to stay aligned and focused on the few important goals that matter. They operated in a fast-paced competitive environment with demanding customers who needed innovative designs delivered fast. They had serious challenges in getting the various teams – Corporate, Marketing, Sales, and Design to focus and stay aligned, to deliver on the exacting customer demands.

Engineering was a critical function for this organization and they did two radical things:

  1. They decided to implement OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) – a goal management and Iterative Business Execution philosophy that has been practiced successfully for decades by most Silicon Valley companies – Big & Small, to achieve stretch targets in compressed timeframes, in highly competitive environments, at Scale.
  2. They elevated one of their engineering managers with broad experience to the role of the CHRO.

OKRs have proven to be a great framework for organizations to realize their strategy through iterative business execution. Objectives are challenging goals to be achieved in a defined time, say a quarter or a year. They are directional statements (E.g. Create an Amazing Customer Experience). Key Results are time bound, measurable, track able means to achieve the objectives (E.g. Improve Customer Satisfaction scores from 70 to 90 this quarter).  They should be ambitious, yet achievable.   They chose 3-5 important Objectives and corresponding Key Results at every level – Corporate, Department & Team using an intuitive cloud based OKR software.

Next, to execute the OKR project they needed an internal champion to rally the troops and drive the effort- The CHRO with business background was a perfect fit. He had the executive support of the CEO and formed a team of OKR Department Champions. This team worked with the CEO, communicated across the organization the benefits of OKRs and the operating principles, and drove the adoption tirelessly. They ensured that the corporate OKRs were cascaded into Departmental and Team OKRs

Teams were encouraged to set their own OKRs and align them with other teams’ and Corporate OKRs. This proved to be an empowering exercise for the rank and file employees. While the first quarter was a learning exercise, significant benefits started appearing soon enough. By the second quarter the organization was executing with a never-before seen focus, while staying aligned – from corporate to the frontline teams. Customers and partners noticed – their win-rates and CSAT scores rose. Their Employee Engagement scores improved too – most employees felt that the entire exercise made their job even more fulfilling.

The CHRO was hailed as a hero for this successful OKR implementation exercise, which ended up, setting the organization in a rapid ascent towards achieving their ambitious goals. They were able to conduct experiments on various aspects of their business, with OKR software helping in their iterative business execution. The CHRO remains the anchor of this exercise as they continue their execution using OKRs adding immerse value to their customers, employees and partners.

By : Senthil Rajagopalan. President & COO at Profit.co

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