The rise of the chief human resources officer
Career TransitionsSuccession PlanningHuman ResourcesC-Suite Succession
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December 21, 2018
Career TransitionsSuccession PlanningHuman ResourcesC-Suite Succession
Human resources officers should have experience that closely connects them to the strategy and operations of the overall business.

Quartz at Work

The Quartz at Work article, "The rise of the chief human resources officer," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates data from the paper, "Inside the Mind of the Chief Human Resources Officer." The data reveals that recent Fortune 100 CHROs are more likely to have come from non-HR backgrounds than longer-tenured CHROs. The article is excerpted below. 

It turned out to be fortunate for Mike McGuire, the CEO of US accounting giant Grant Thornton LLP, that his predecessor had decided to streamline things a few years back. 

Up until then, McGuire had followed a fairly traditional route for executives in his field. He majored in accounting as a university student, earned his CPA, rose to audit practice leader in his region for Arthur Andersen, and moved to Grant Thornton, where he rose to become chief operating officer. 

Then a new CEO, the aforementioned predecessor, came in with an assignment for him. ”His predecessor had about 16 people on his leadership team, and he, being part of that, thought it was dysfunctional, there were too many direct reports to the CEO. So he had five,” McGuire recalls. “I had a high interest in talent and culture, so he said, ‘It really makes sense to have that report to you.'” And so for several years, while serving as COO, McGuire got exposure to a crucial function for any future leader of a firm with thousands of employees. 

Along the way, he developed a close working relationship with the chief people and culture officer and gained a deeper appreciation for the role of human resources. ”You always have to have that compliance side of HR; it’s critical. But it’s beyond that,” McGuire says. “What I was able to glean from it is that it’s a strategic role.” 

And that’s why, after McGuire got promoted to CEO in January 2015, he took the chain of command with him. 


One hallmark of the new thinking about HR is that it should be led by someone whose experience more closely connects them to the strategy and operations of the overall business. Consider the findings of a 2017 analysis of CHROs in the Fortune 100, conducted by executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates. It saw a marked difference in the kinds of experience that new CHROs were bringing to the role. 

To read the full article, click here.