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7 Strategic Priorities For CHROs In 2020

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Linda Currey Post, Oracle BRANDVOICE contributor, wrote in Forbes about seven strategic priorities for CHROs in 2020.

Although the year ahead will present clear challenges for human resources leaders, “there has never been a better time to be a CHRO,” says John Beaman, the chief human resources officer of Adventist Health. That’s because CHROs are leaned on as trusted advisors on the full range of an organization’s strategic and operational goals, since reaching them all requires having top employees working at their best.

HR leaders face daunting issues, the No. 1 being low unemployment, particularly in the US, and therefore high competition to land the best possible job seekers. Against that backdrop, here are seven priorities CHROs shared for the year ahead.

No. 1: Acting as Your Organization’s HR Tech Advisor

CHROs are finding out that their C-level peers expect them to drive the conversation about how and when to update their organization’s HR IT systems. In partnership with the IT department, for example, they need to decide what role emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain should play in enhancing HR’s capabilities.

Beaman is embracing that role at Adventist Health, a California-based provider that has doubled its size through acquisitions to become a network of 19 hospitals and 250 clinics with 22,000 employees. Beaman, who serves both as the chief business officer and as CHRO, leads the frequent integrations of acquired healthcare companies and knows well the challenge of incorporating different HR, finance, purchasing, and accounting practices.

Two years ago, Beaman partnered with then-CHRO JoAline Olson as they guided their C-suite colleagues through a move from 30-year-old green screen applications to a modern suite of HR and finance applications based in the cloud. The team plans to implement cloud-based supply chain software next.

“Like other industries, it’s imperative for a healthcare system to be nimble and modern, and for us to understand data so we can make it easy for our associates to do their jobs. That was impossible to manage when we had green screens hooked up to 20 different computer systems.”

-John Beaman, chief human resources officer of Adventist Health


One of the selling points of the cloud was that it would help keep employees happy with their employer. The self-service aspect of the new cloud system lets employees get instant answers to their questions, and this year the organization will introduce chatbots as a fun and easy way to keep employees informed. Managers encourage associates to enter information about their work interests and goals directly into the system and update it frequently, and leaders use that input to shape educational opportunities and retention strategies that are so important in a competitive labor market.


“More than ever, one of our top priorities is to make sure everything we do is geared to helping our associates be more efficient, effective, and engaged with us. The cloud helps us deepen our relationship with them.”

-John Beaman, chief human resources officer of Adventist Health

No. 2: Experimenting with New Recruiting Methods to Entice Top Employees

With the strong economy, top job candidates have their choice of offers. HR pros can’t miss a trick in thinking like marketers to attract employees to their organizations.

When Yvonne Foster joined Britain’s Co-op to lead resourcing, the company had a very simple scheme for recruiting workers: a “help wanted” sign in the store. That wasn’t enough to meet a hiring need that will be close to 19,000 this year, thanks to expansion and typical turnover.

Foster combined collaboration and technology in her approach.

First, she asked store managers and other Co-op leaders to join an effort called “What Great Looks Like.” They mapped out the ideal attributes in food store employees: friendly, responsible, and team player topped the list.

Then she used cloud-based recruiting software to standardize the job descriptions for all store positions. The company built a new career site where it now posts all open positions. Artificial intelligence embedded in the recruiting software helps hiring managers find the “best-fit” applicants.

Co-op stores now have a 98 percent offer acceptance rate.

No. 3: Moving the Best Candidates Up

An HR leader who learned firsthand the importance of changing the technology status quo is Elias Medina, the director of recruitment and training at the Arizona Federal Credit Union, which is headquartered in Phoenix, the fastest-growing city in the US.

So while Phoenix is flooded with job seekers looking for a meaningful career in a temperate climate, many small banks in the Valley of the Sun are competing for the same candidates. “How do we stand apart?” Medina muses.

The first step, which the credit union implemented last year, was modernizing and digitizing the recruiting process. Instead of packing paper application packets to local job fairs, recruiters now bring mobile devices so potential employees can fill out instant applications. Credit union representatives can more easily stay in touch throughout the interviewing and onboarding process.

The next step is focusing on career planning for employees. Medina says that’s particularly important as the financial institution has completed its first acquisition, of Pinnacle Bank, with the intent of moving into more commercial lending. Arizona Federal Credit Union plans to use succession planning software to help identify jobs for all 66 employees of the acquired company and to chart meaningful careers for everyone.

No. 4: Understanding What Employees Like About Their Jobs

Realizing that high-performing employees have their choice of employers in the strong US economy, CHRO Roger Casalengo makes a point to find out what staffers like about working at Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES), a Pennsylvania-based defense contractor that makes components for missiles, jet fighters, and satellites.

Casalengo’s team ran focus groups that surveyed 1,300 of the company’s 3,400 employees.

“We asked them, ‘Why Cobham Electronics Solutions? What gets you up in the morning excited to go to work? What are the reasons you continue to work here?’”

-Roger Casalengo, CHRO at CAES

The employees, many of them retired military, said they are proud that their work on critical defense components helps keep Americans safe. They also appreciate that the company supports career development.

Based on employee feedback, the company built a new program called “borderless engineering” where technical employees in a New York office can move temporarily to its San Diego office to learn how to design and build different CAES products, meet new colleagues, and share ideas. That also helps the company by creating a larger pool of people qualified to troubleshoot production of critical components and work on bids to win new business.

“We’re trying to build career opportunities for folks who want them. We are creating development plans and a learning platform with online courses for every role in the company. We believe there’s upward mobility, and there’s lateral mobility here.”

-Roger Casalengo, CHRO at CAES

No. 5: Preparing for Constantly Changing Regulations

At AfrAsia Bank, on the tiny African island of Mauritius, one of Maureen Treanor’s top priorities heading into 2020 is compliance with the “hyperlocal” regulations of the Workers’ Rights Act, signed into law in October by the government of Mauritius. As AfrAsia Bank’s head of HR and change management, Treanor and her team conducted workshops for managers and employees so they could understand their rights and responsibilities under the new law, which boosts the minimum wage, vacation, and retirement benefits of part-time and casual workers, and provides a process for them to carry pension contributions and retirement benefits from employer to employer.

Mauritius’ new rules are just one example of the always-changing labor regulatory environment facing HR leaders. Treanor notes that the bank’s adoption of a comprehensive, cloud-based HR platform will make the task of changing employee salaries and benefits to comply with regulations easier than updating each individual’s employment record manually. She says that in the bank’s effort to become the “employer of choice” on the island, managers are committed to keeping staffers informed about changing regulations.

No. 6: Training Future Leaders

Baylor University’s CHRO Cheryl Gochis and her team are expanding their responsibilities by bringing the group that handles student employment into the larger HR organization. Gochis sees it as a chance to tackle several goals at once: give students the real-world work skills they need, help students find jobs that reduce their debt load, and streamline processes with the end goal of cutting costs.

“We wanted to see how we can manage student employment without adding headcount. We think we can be more effective with fewer people and that, of course, impacts the cost.”

-Cheryl Gochis, CHRO at Baylor University

Baylor will track jobs for students using its new cloud-based HCM platform.

To help student employees succeed, the HR team is producing and managing formal work protocols on what is expected of students in a given job, and the HR team makes a point of having informal conversations with students who work, particularly students looking to go into HR careers.

“We talk about how you serve a client matters, regardless if you’re going into recruiting, benefits, or compensation. And how to serve them with joy. That’s why we have established protocols for even front-desk-type work.”

-Cheryl Gochis, CHRO at Baylor University

The idea of bringing joy to any kind of work stems from the Christian principles that guide life at Baylor. The protocols from the HR team urge students to be helpful, patient, friendly, and joyful.

The HR team helps fill typical student jobs such as working at the student recreation center or guiding tours for high school seniors considering future enrollment at Baylor. On-campus jobs are particularly valuable to Baylor students, Gochis notes, since Waco, Texas, where the university is located, doesn’t offer public transportation for off-campus employment.

No. 7: Giving Employees a Reason to Be Proud

Several CHROs plan to involve their teams this year in activities that the organizations’ employees, customers, and extended communities take pride in. Their premise: good works are good for business.

For example, during the US government shutdown at the start of 2019, Arizona Federal Credit Union quickly offered a low-interest, easy-to-repay loan to members caught without a paycheck. After the shutdown ended, those grateful recipients flooded the credit union with thank-you notes and messages of support, says Medina. Should another shutdown occur, credit union lenders will be ready to help again.

At Baylor University, CHRO Gochis says the extensive program of volunteer opportunities around Waco as well as mission trips open to students and staff attracts the kind of people the university considers a good fit. Gochis supervised a group of students last summer on a mission trip to Guatemala where participants volunteered for a charity helping undernourished children. She says the experience was life-changing, and these and more local volunteer activities draw just the kind of students and staff valued by the Baylor community.

Back on the island of Mauritius, HR exec Treanor’s team works with the bank’s foundation to collect donations from the company, staff, clients and the community. The money supports a preschool whose 3- to 5-year-old students come from poor families living challenging lives amid the island’s luxury. Last year’s donation to the preschool totaled 5.2 million Mauritian rupees ($140,000)—1.7 million from collected donations and 3.5 million from the bank—enough to buy the children clothing, books, and backpacks, and two meals a day.

The preschool runs a kitchen garden where the kids grow vegetables they take home. Next Christmas, bank employees will once again set up a “wish tree” and purchase presents for the kids that fulfill their holiday wishes. The staffers will join the children for a holiday party, giving the employees a chance to meet the youngsters they’re supporting. “We’ll have a lot of happy kids,” Treanor says, along with a large group of employees proud to say they work for AfrAsia bank.

To learn more about strategic priorities for CHROs, check out the Forbes article and additional resources attached below.

Additional Resources