While “C Suite” may start the acronym CHRO, the truth is too many chief human resource officers don’t have a credible seat at the highest decision-making echelons of the company, namely the boardroom.

SAP Radio host and moderator Bonnie D. Graham said that “CHROs who want a seat in the boardroom need to be given the right opportunity or they need to grab it.” Graham conducted a reality check with experts who shared their perspectives on CHRO power during a recent episode of Changing the Game with HR entitled “CHRO: New Roadmap to the Boardroom?

For CHROs, when it comes to getting into the boardroom, it’s who knows you

Seizing an Opportunity

CHROs often don’t know what to do with their office according to Chris Johnson, senior partner at Mercer. “They’re in the seat, but are they a powerful voice, the first person listened to as business strategy and challenges are considered in the boardroom? The answer to that question is no, but they could be.”

Johnson said CHROs are well-positioned to be stargazers and guides to the board as technology innovations change how work gets done, demand for workers exceeds labor supply, and people’s attitudes change.

“People are looking for more satisfaction and are much more motivated by purpose,” he said. “The CHRO stargazer needs real evidence about what’s happening in each of these dimensions.”

What It Takes for CHROs to Move Up

When Graham asked if stepping up with enthusiasm was enough for CHROs to carve out more senior-level recognition, Fabiana Lacerca-Allen, president of Ethiprax said they needed more. “You must have the networkability and the ability to work with others to really be successful,” she said. “I also think you need emotional intelligence because it’s having realistic self-awareness.”

Dr. Patti Fletcher, leadership futurist and solution management at SAP SuccessFactors, said CHROs are challenged because almost 100 percent of board positions are filled through referrals. “CHROs tend to be very internally focused unlike head of sales or a CEO…When it comes to getting to the boardroom, it’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you,” she said.

The Impact of Disruption

CHROs have a major role to play in the kind of disruption companies face today. Fletcher sees CHRO responsibilities shifting beyond implementing people strategies or understanding talent pools. “They become the voice of that global talent pool, and help create that bridge between where we want to be as a business and how it is that we’re going to get there because people are the Number One determinant of that success. We need that voice in the boardroom,” she said.

Mercer agreed, forecasting a new kind of HR. “We’ll see a totally new function…a strong emphasis around people with the strategy and service parts being managed differently.”

Passion and presence isn’t sufficient for CHROs that want to have credibility on the board. They need to help steer both HR and the company to succeed in a totally new business reality.

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