Here’s to the HR leaders and managers who helped maintain the workplace over these past many months of extended crisis. There’s never been a more powerful argument for the role of HR leadership in strategic planning and decision making.

Whether titled a CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer), CPO (Chief People Officer) or CHCO (Chief Human Capital Officer), heads of HR are proving vital to overall business continuity and success. 

They’re shaping the work culture in powerful ways that are improving alignment and engagement. On the hiring front, they’re influencing the candidate experience to give organizations a truly competitive edge. 

I’ve had companies ask me what I think about adding a Chief Human Resources Officer to the C-Suite. (I’m using the title in the general sense, as you can call it what you will.) I’ve also been having some pretty heartfelt conversations with HR professionals about the fact that HR’s time has finally come: the field has profoundly evolved far away from basic administration and really is focused on talent, as in people. 

This is one of the biggest trends I’m seeing for the present and future of work, and I wanted to look at the roles of CHROs — and why we need them in our leadership ranks more than ever.

The CHRO can prepare your workforce for change

Companies are facing a future of transformation and shifts whether they were planned or not.

Companies are facing a future of transformation and shifts whether they were planned or not. 

CEOs need a leader or ally who can act as a strategic partner in terms of the workforce. That means looking at the key drivers, disruptions and threats facing the organization, as well as the industry as a whole, and creating a strategy that ensures survival and lessens risk. 

Tremendous opportunities exist in the changing workplace, from the pivot to remote to the increasing reliance on digital platforms and communication, from a new approach to teams and autonomy to the imperative for transforming benefits. 

A Chief Human Resources Officer can look at all of these factors and use them to create strategies that ensure the best iteration of the workplace, oversee this change throughout the entire organization and get all stakeholders aligned. 

This isn’t reading the tea leaves but understanding the way work will inevitably change — such as the need to reskill and upskill employees to better face the future. A CHRO can chart the course to ensure this happens, enabling the organization to weather the coming storms.

The CHRO can be a champion of diversity

Without the alignment of the C-Suite, comprehensive diversity and inclusion efforts can’t take hold.

Diversity is an inarguable advantage for organizations in terms of more productive and innovative teams and a far more engaging and meaningful working culture. But it can’t happen by itself, and increasingly it’s clear that leaving the responsibility of diversity to mid-level managers isn’t enough. 

It’s not that managers don’t have the commitment or align around the importance of diversity; it’s that they don’t have the buy-in from leaders that it takes to bring about substantial change. 

Without the alignment of the C-Suite, comprehensive diversity and inclusion efforts can’t take hold and become part of the organization’s core values and systems. This is related to culture, but it’s also a separate issue, extending from talent acquisition and recruiting though the candidate experience and into the full employee journey, including everything from onboarding to compensation and succession to benefits and work culture. 

The CHRO can oversee D&I — or DI and B — and enact the kind of effective, data-driven strategies that can drive real transformation. It’s actually the elevated position of this role that matters: someone who has visibility over a range of key functions and has the vision to improve them all. 

In this way, diversity is part of an overall strategy — and that’s what it’s going to take to achieve it.

The CHRO can impact organizational culture

CHROs can provide the overall strategy that best supports HR teams and managers.

We’ve discovered that organizational cultures are far more plastic than we might wish: given the heat of necessity (and crisis), they can change for the better or the worse. 

During the pandemic HR teams were tasked with the challenge of managing change that was already happening. 

They had to maintain (if not improve) engagement and alignment at a time when countless workers were suddenly separated from their coworkers and the day-to-day office environment, often thrust into a new chaos of working, parenting and caregiving under one roof, yet still expected to adapt, produce, and perform. They also had to troubleshoot, encourage, monitor, communicate, check in, onboard, review and perform all the other functions within their purview. 

What was made very clear is that HR has a fundamental impact on organizational culture. Values and ethics are conveyed through them, more than anyone else. 

The value of CHROs is that they can — again — provide the overall strategy that best supports HR teams and managers. They can establish overarching policies that address the need for additional help or additional actions, — such as caregiving and parenting leaves, emergency funds, succession and continuity plans, technology assistance, as well as civility and fairness.

The employee experience can no longer be left up to chance, given the pressures on our workforce — neither can the candidate experience, which has a marked impact on the success of a hire and the presence of the employer brand. 

There isn’t one aspect of HR, actually, that doesn’t deserve leadership from the top, with compassion, expertise and acumen. The outcome of the organization depends entirely on the outcome of hiring and talent management. 

As one Chief Human Resources Officer said to me recently, this is a perfect instance of Why didn’t we do this before? But the good news is that we’re doing it now.

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized analyst, author, speaker and brand strategist. The founder of TalentCulture, she hosts #WorkTrends, a popular weekly Twitter Chat and podcast. Her career spans across recruiting, talent management, digital media and brand strategy for hundreds of companies, from startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She also serves on advisory boards for leading HR technology brands. Meghan can be regularly found on Forbes, SHRM, and a variety of other outlets. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.