Reskill, develop, and rotate: the CHRO’s rising influence in today’s business landscape

September 17, 2019 | by: Lance Librorania

The chief human resources officer (CHRO) is a role that’s relatively young when it comes to organizational structure; one of the earliest mentions of it can be found only less than 40 years ago in a Harvard Business Review article by James F. Bolt. There Bolt saw a “results-oriented” attitude in developing leaders and senior executives involved themselves deeply in this training. This focus on people was no longer just the HR or the CHRO’s concern, it was a business priority. 

The business landscape of 2019 is a whole new territory, but Annella Heytens, CHRO for Asia Pacific of Coca-Cola’s Bottling Investments Group, believes in the significance of what the role can bring to the table. In an interview with Rockbird Media Heytens said that the role “is not just human resources, it should be a business function.” It’s up to the CHRO to connect employees to the organization’s goals as “somebody who understands the business, who can affect the company’s results, and can really ensure that whatever strategies are in place, people in HR can support the business objectives.”

How do CHROs handle today’s workplace?

Engagement can no longer be a blanket approach. CHROs must have flexibility in their solutions to engaging the different generations in the workplace. ” It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all, it’s a one-size-fits-one approach,” said Heytens. Being in charge of a workforce with such diversity means that “you’re gonna have to have a whole host of capabilities in your toolkit as a manager and as an HR leader to be able to manage that complexity,” she added.

Personalized engagement means building an image that employees, particularly younger generations, can tie themselves to, according to Heytens. These generations look for “something they can attach to the company that says: ‘Okay, I can relate to that, therefore, I’m 100% bought in to the company’s vision, and approach, and strategies, and I can see myself staying in the company for a period of time.”

This image-building endeavor should be a high priority for businesses. Behind a successful employer brand is not just “one person or a handful of people in the HR function. . . it has to be a culture of managers and leaders,” said Heytens. “If you’re obsessed with your customers, then you should be as obsessed with your employees,” she added. 

Amid the growing talent mismatch in the region, an engaged workforce means securing your business’ future.

“Reskill, develop, and rotate,” is Heyten’s answer to the growing talent gap in APAC. The key to the skills crisis is not just attracting more talent, it’s also holding on to what you already have. “Retention becomes absolutely critical,” said Heytens, “it’s a terrible equation if you start losing people and then you keep having to try to attract more people.” From there it becomes more than just about keeping workers, but also refreshing their skills and aligning them to company goals.  

Heytens spent 11 years as Cisco’s VP of HR before moving to Coca-cola. “I found very interesting similarities and very interesting differences,” she said. Tech companies have very dynamic needs where “you are constantly innovating and on the move, and the skillsets that matter today may not last ‘til tomorrow, and they happen very quickly,” meanwhile roles in manufacturing and consumer products tend to evolve with more wiggle room to rotate employees.

“It’s very easy to lose people who are capable to any of the sexier companies out there,” Heytens said about tech companies. Southeast Asian hubs are racing to be the next Silicon Valley, and it’s the allure of an exciting career in tech that traditional businesses can try to recreate, or build an identity of their own, which is already an ambitious undertaking by itself. Either way, according to Heytens, “you always just have to be vigilant, no matter what, just because the world is changing so fast.”