How to become a chief human resource officer in 9 steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The role of chief human resource officer (CHRO) can be integral to an organisation's success, and as such, it can provide attractive salaries and benefits packages. Human resource (HR) management is becoming more strategic, so CHROs are establishing themselves as vital to organisations. Becoming a CHRO requires a combination of excellent HR knowledge and experience, business acumen and leadership skills. In this article, we discuss the CHRO's role and share nine steps you can take to become one.

Related: What is human resources? (With duties, skills and tips)

What is a chief human resource officer?

A chief human resource officer, or chief people officer, is an executive-level position responsible for all aspects of an organisation's human capital management and HR policies. Demand for this position escalated from the increased importance of attracting and retaining human talent for businesses to gain a competitive edge. A CHRO's responsibilities include the following:

  • developing and implementing HR strategies that support business goals

  • articulating HR needs to senior management, shareholders and the board of directors

  • advising senior management on organisational design and restructuring

  • driving employee engagement initiatives

  • managing the recruitment, development and performance of employees

  • overseeing employee relations, including payroll and benefits

  • administering HR policies and programmes

Related: Core HR functions and different human resource specialities

How to become a chief human resource officer

There's no single career path to becoming a CHRO, and you can find people in this role with a variety of backgrounds and levels of education. People can work their way up through traditional HR roles, move into the role from other areas of business or switch laterally from other C-level positions. Experience in HR and a deep understanding of how it contributes to business results is crucial for this position. The following are nine steps to take to become a CHRO:

1. Complete a degree

The CHRO role isn't only for those with a degree, but many employers stipulate that candidates for higher-level HR positions have one. An undergraduate degree can enable aspiring CHROs to attain the position more quickly and easily. Bachelor's degrees in HR or business are usually the most beneficial and can equip you with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills essential for the role.

Related: 5 free HR classes online and skills to help your career

2. Get experience in HR

Having experience in HR is crucial to becoming a CHRO. Many CHROs progress through the ranks of HR, starting as HR coordinators or generalists and working their way up to senior management positions. Some of the roles CHROs progress through are the following:

  • HR assistant: Their responsibilities are mostly administrative tasks, such as maintaining employee records, scheduling interviews and processing new hire paperwork. This is an entry-level HR position that can give you an insight into the day-to-day workings of HR.

  • HR coordinator: This profession mixes performing administrative tasks and supporting HR initiatives. Employers for this role often ask for competence in computer software and may require a foundation HR certification.

  • HR generalist: Their responsibilities include a broad range of HR activities, such as assisting with implementing HR strategies and supporting senior HR professionals. This position often requires experience in an HR position and an associate diploma-level HR certification.

  • HR specialist: This role's duties include giving advice, usually in a particular area of HR, such as Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) transfers and employee relations. This role often requires A-levels and experience in an HR role.

  • HR manager: Their responsibilities include overseeing a team of HR professionals, developing and implementing HR strategies and managing budgets. Typical entry requirements include strong HR experience and an associate-level HR certification.

Related: How to become a human resource specialist (with duties)

3. Develop key CHRO skills

To be successful in the CHRO role, it's necessary to develop a range of hard and soft skills. These include the following:

  • Strategic thinking: The ability to think strategically in the long term and make decisions that benefit the business holistically is vital for CHROs.

  • Business acumen: It's necessary for CHROs to understand how businesses operate and be able to see the interconnectivity between different departments and functions. This enables them to make decisions that align with the business's goals.

  • Leadership: Being able to lead and inspire teams of HR professionals is an important skill for CHROs. This requires the ability to motivate team members and provide them with guidance and support when necessary.

  • Communication: The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is crucial for CHROs. This requires the ability to adapt their communication style to suit their audience and convey their ideas clearly.

  • Problem-solving: Being able to identify problems and find creative solutions that benefit the business as a whole is an essential skill for CHROs.

  • Analytical skills: The ability to analyse data and make decisions based on their findings is an indispensable skill for CHROs. Thus, it's important for them to be comfortable with using a variety of HR software and be able to understand complex data sets.

Related: What is human resource planning? (With tools and benefits)

4. Gain professional HR qualifications

Gaining professional HR qualifications can make you more employable and help you progress in your career. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is the professional body for HR and offers a range of accredited professional qualifications. Employers frequently ask for the following qualifications when advertising HR roles:

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in People Practice: This certificate takes, on average, seven months to complete and provides the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to begin an HR career.

  • CIPD Level 5 Associate Diploma in People Management: This certification takes, on average, 12–16 months to complete and focuses on strategy and initiatives to enable organisations to achieve long-term success.

  • CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma in Strategic Learning and Development: On average, participants complete this certification in 16–24 months, which is equivalent to a postgraduate qualification and includes specialist units.

Related: 5 HR certifications (plus descriptions and benefits)

5. Network with other HR professionals

Networking with other HR professionals is an excellent way to develop your knowledge and skills and stay current with industry news and trends. There are many ways to network with other HR professionals, such as attending conferences and events, joining professional organisations and connecting with people on social media. Networking can also help you to find new job opportunities and make useful contacts for the future.

Related: What is the HR career path? (Plus HR jobs and duties)

6. Stay current with industry news and trends

Staying current with industry news and trends is essential for CHROs. This helps you understand the challenges businesses face and identify new opportunities for the organisation. There are many ways to stay informed, such as reading HR magazines and blogs, following HR thought leaders on social media and attending conferences and events.

Related: Human resource management careers (with salaries and duties)

7. Become a chartered member of the CIPD

Becoming a chartered member of the CIPD demonstrates your commitment to professional development and enhances your employability. To become a chartered member, it's necessary to have at least one year of relevant HR experience at the required level. Once you become a chartered member, you can use the letters Chart.Mgt after your name.

Related: How to become an HR trainer (with required qualifications)

8. Apply for jobs as a CHRO

Once you have the necessary experience, you can start looking for jobs as a CHRO. There are many ways to search for jobs, such as looking up job boards, using recruitment agencies and viewing websites of any professional organisations you've joined. When applying for jobs, ensure to tailor your CV and cover letter to each position.

Related: 10 types of company executives (plus duties and skills)

9. Thoroughly prepare for job interviews

Before you go to an interview, spend time researching the organisation and the sector in which it operates. When preparing for a CHRO interview, make sure to review your CV and practise answering common interview questions. Prepare to give examples of how you've managed previous HR roles and the outcomes.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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